RATE ISSUES WINTER / 2008

Editor's Notes:

Don't be conspicuous! Don't try to stand out! Always stick to your place and do what the others are doing! These are some of the catch slogans, the words of wisdom that characterize the essence of passivity that has shaped our culture for centuries. Do we then wonder when Parliament happens to think of substantially raising our salaries right before the elections and not one of the bright minds in the assembly dares to speak against it? Was there no one among those Members of Parliament that thought this unprecedented move might be irresponsible now that our unbalanced economy is on the brink of recession? Was there no one with enough backbone to face public derision for the truth, for their beliefs? Or have we become used to keeping our heads down and avoiding responsibility by hiding behind the mass of our peers? Is there no one to think that we need massive reform rather than a self-consuming massive raise?

Change ... we can believe in, as someone recently said. But it has to come from each and everyone of us rather than from the top. When each of us dares to speak out and face the risks involved, when the embarrassment of our corrupt national examinations has been shaken off, when each of us tries to be a little more responsible at their workplace, then it will happen. People will start caring about having one less student for whom cheating is second nature, one less teenager who believes corruption is inevitable, one less wrapper carelessly dropped on the sidewalk, one less plastic bottle in the river, one less vandalized park. Change! Perhaps that is exactly the problem: change, we no longer believe in. We have quickly compromised our dream of reform and now we join politicians and the entire society in cynically trying to gain as much short-term gain as we can.

Yes, we can!

Ovidiu Aniculaese

 

 

Lost (and found) in translation
Poetry translation with (and by) lower secondary school pupils

by Cornelia Buligiu, School no. 22 Mircea Eliade, Craiova
 
Keywords: translation, poetry, reading material, lower secondary school, translation competition, poetic word, negotiate
 
Most teachers believe that reading regularly (both in the classroom and outside) gives students confidence in their use of the language and improves their understanding, generally speaking.
Inside the classroom we use short texts which are studied in detail, as the students are requested to read and understand most of it, answer questions, do exercises, analyze the vocabulary and the list of tasks is vast.
Outside the classroom, we may ask students to study longer texts, but (and now I am speaking from personal experience) the students consider it to be a sort of punishment, as reading is considered to be “nerdy” and the so called “cool kids” will never do such a thing.
With lower secondary school pupils, I have tried to use funny, amusing texts to catch their attention and thus to lure them towards books. I am not the sort of teacher who considers that children today read less than those in previous generations, I only consider that they read less from books and more from other sources (and now I have to come back to the Internet, but magazines, ads, leaflets and even commercials or cartoons are a good example of useful reading material). And since books sometimes fall into disuse, not only in the English classroom, but in general, during optional classes (and motivated by an inter-county translation competition which takes place in my town) I have decided to bring some poems written by Marin Sorescu and let students have a go and translate them into English. This did not come out of nowhere, but we first had a discussion about poetry and the meaning of words in poems, read a few English poems to check how the language sounds in verse, and I was surprised to see that the children were quite enthusiastic. The poems which I have enclosed below are a collective work of my students, since translation is actually a difficult task, especially for students between the ages of 10 to 15.
Although the reading was performed in both languages, the effect on the students’ general level of English was noticeable. Even the shy or less confident children contributed in the process, and since the poem took shape under their very eyes, from their own ideas, they were eager to read it aloud and impress the other groups. In the end, the entire class combined their versions into one and the finite poem was not something the teacher said they should read, but their own text.
There were heated discussions and harsh negotiations during the process; one example is the use of “dust” for the Romanian “huma” or “breath” for “saliva”, which implied a deep understanding of the religious content of the poem and search for a poetic word, not necessarily for a mere equivalent. The longest time spent on translating a poem was in the case of “The Cricket and the Ant” as the students’ ambition was to make it rhyme as much as possible – and it did.
The effort was considerable, dictionaries were employed from time to time, conflicts over “which is the best fitting poetic word” sprung here and there , but in the end they were very proud of their work (and the teacher, too).
 

 

Ceva ca rugăciunea


Nu ştiu ce am,
Ca nu dorm când dorm
Nu ştiu ce am,
Ca nu sunt treaz,
Când stau de veghe.

Nu ştiu ce am,
Ca nu ajung nicăieri,
Când merg.

Nu ştiu ce am,
Ca stand pe loc
Sunt, hat , departe.

Doamne, din ce fel de huma
M-ai luat in palmele tale calde
Si cu ce fel de saliva
Ai amestecat si-ai frământat huma-mi?

De nu ştiu ce am
Ca exist,
Nu ştiu ce am
Ca nu mai am nimic,
Decât pe tine.

A kind of prayer


 I don’t know what’s so wrong with me
That I can’t sleep when I am sleeping
I don’t know what’s so wrong with me
That I am not awake
When I’m on watch.
 
I don’t know what’s so wrong with me
 I can’t get anywhere
I’m going
 
I don’t know what’s so wrong with me that when I’m sitting still
I find myself so far away.
 
Lord, from what sort of dust
Did your holy hands pick me up
And what sort of holy breath
Used to bring me on this earth?
 
I don’t know what’s so wrong with me
That I exist
I don’t know what’s so wrong with me
That I have nothing else
But Thee.

Bolnav de carte


O carte, odată scrisă,
Nu produce imunitate la scris.
Te vei îmbolnăvi de microbul
Cărţii următoare.

Şi tot aşa...
Ca o veşnică stare de gripă,
Cu un milion de rădăcini
De microbi.

Sick of book
 
A book, once it is written
Does not make us immune to writing.
You will catch the virus
Of the following book.
 
Endlessly…
Just like a never-ending flu
With a million
Virus roots.

 

Greierele şi furnica

 

- Surioară dragă, am...
Am venit să-mi dai şi mie...
Pân’ la primăvară...
- N-am.
- ...un grăunte... ai o mie.
- N-am.
- Dar toată lumea ştie:
E doar lucru cunoscut.
- Am, da’ nu vreau
să-mprumut!
Astă-vară ce-ai făcut?
- Am cântat...
- Acuma joacă!
- Îmi e foame, c-aş juca...
- Joacă...
- Nu mă enerva,
Că-s nervos... îmi dai, or...
- Ba.
- Eşti zgârcită...
- Mă închin.
- da’ o să te-ntind puţin.
Şi-agăţând vioara-n grindă
Greieru-nşfăcă furnica
Şi-ncepu „să o destindă”.
Şi-a bătut-o zdravăn, vere!
Apoi s-au oprit. Tăcere.
Amândoi stăteau ca muţi.
- Ei, acuma mă-mprumuţi,
Surioară?
- Cu plăcere.

The Cricket and the Ant
 
‘Here I am…
My little sister…
Till next spring, please, if you may…’
‘No way.’
‘For a little grain I pray.
You have a thousand’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘Oh, yes, you do.
Everyone knows that it’s true.’
‘I may have, but not for those
Who come begging.
You were busy in the summer
Doing what?’
‘Oh, you know, playing…’
‘Go ahead, then, and start dancing!’
‘I am hungry, otherwise…’
‘Come on, dance…’
‘Don’t tease me now cause I’m angry…
Will you give me?’
‘No, I won’t’
‘You are mean…’
‘Well, I don’t seem.’
‘Let me hang my violin
And I’ll show you what I mean.’
So the cricket caught the ant,
Hit her, beat her to a pulp
Till they stopped. Indeed no sound
Both were quiet, as if dumb.
‘Well, my dearest, changed your mind?’
‘But of course that I don’t mind.’
 

Capriciu
În fiecare seară
Strâng de prin vecini
Toate scaunele disponibile
Şi le citesc versuri.

Scaunele sunt foarte receptive
La poezie,
Dacă ştii cum să le aşezi.

De aceea
Eu mă emoţionez,
Şi timp de câteva ore
Le povestesc
Ce frumos a murit sufletul meu
Peste zi.

Întâlnirile noastre
Sunt de obicei sobre,
Fără entuziasme
De prisos.

În orice caz,
Înseamnă că fiecare
Ne-am făcut datoria,
Şi putem merge
Mai departe.
 

Whim
Every night
I gather from my neighbours
All the empty chairs I can
And I read poems to them.
 
The chairs are quite open
To poetry
If you know how to arrange them.
 
That is why
I am so touched
That hours on end
I keep telling them
How peacefully my soul died
During the day.
 
Our meetings
Are sober as usual
No useless
Enthusiasm.
 
Anyway
This only means
That we have all done our duty
And we can all
Move on.
 

 

In this issue:
 

 

ISSN 1844 – 6159

 Dictionary Use in the EFL Classroom. Pro’s and Con’s

Iuliana Avadani, Grupul Scolar Nicolina Iasi

Keywords: learning tools, decontextualization, dictionary skills, dictionary activities

The primary aim of a dictionary is to serve as an effective learner’s dictionary, as a powerful learning aid that promotes understanding and stimulates a desire to learn. Although they are the greatest single resource students can have at their disposal, they are sometimes the least widely-used resource that learners work with. This is related to the fact that either teachers do not allow their use in classrooms or students do not know how to use them.

From the students’ perspective

Dictionaries are a very important language learning tool. They are as useful as they can be counter-productive. To make dictionaries useful, students must understand the role of dictionaries in English and know when it is appropriate and acceptable to use them as part of normal classroom work. They need to understand that overuse affects the learning process.

As teachers, we should not forget about the foreign language learners’ need to understand every word. The importance of using a dictionary to make sure all words are spelled correctly is emphasized. Students benefit from an increased self-reliance and resourcefulness when the teacher says ‘look it up’. Unfortunately, most EFL students use dictionaries for simply translating words from English to their native language and vice-versa. They believe it is the fastest way to learn new vocabulary. They do not realize that learning new vocabulary by translating actually slows down the learning process. Translation could be a learning strategy; but surely it is not the fastest means of mastering new language inputs. Hence the tendency to forget new words learnt by such means.

From the teacher’s perspective

Generally speaking, dictionaries should be the last option for new words and expressions. We should remember that almost 70-80% of all language can be communicated non-verbally. Figuring out meaning in context is more effective in learning and teaching of new language. Looking up the meaning of a new word should be a very brief activity. Teachers should try to get students to explain new vocabulary in their own words after having explained the new word to them. Having a dictionary at hand is a distraction for the student and teacher alike. Many teachers become frustrated by students’ overuse. The result is a deviation from the focus of the lesson since students waste time to look up a new word. It can also mean that students do not have confidence in their teacher’s ability to explain new vocabulary. This may lead to a decrease of teacher’s confidence. In his book, J. Harmer (2007:246) suggests a bargain between students and teachers which involves agreeing when they will and will not use dictionaries.

The Role of Dictionaries in Learning

Dictionaries are especially used for vocabulary building. There are many ways of understanding the meanings of new words and expressions without using the dictionary, but there are some reasons why using dictionaries in the classroom:

- sometimes we are unsure of the spelling of some words;

- the vocabulary of a lesson can be new to students or teachers, why not admit it, can be at a loss of words or they simply do not know a word;

- idioms and phrasal verbs can sometimes be too difficult to guess from the context;

- sometimes we need to look up jargons;

- dictionary use should be taught to learners as a study skill.

Disadvantages of Using Dictionaries

A dictionary can be a learner’s study companion at home or when the teacher is not around. Despite its importance, dictionary use raises three major problems:

1. Dictionaries hinder students to think in context. Each time students look up the meaning of a word, they isolate it and take it out from the context. But words do not exist in isolation and decontextualization has negative effects on the learning process. Without understanding the meaning of words, student soon forget them.

2. Dictionaries are a great distraction. As we have said before, a student might want to check the meaning of a word while the teacher tries to explain something which requires his/her attention. Sometimes, the word they try to check is unimportant to the topic. The learners’ attention is deviated from the focus of the lesson. 

3. “Easy come, easy go”.  Every time a new word or expression is learnt without much thinking effort, by rote learning, students easily forget it. A majority of English learners who use their dictionary all the time always find themselves learning the meaning of a new English word but finding it difficult to remember it the next time they come across it. Hence the saying: “Easy Come, Easy Go”

Training Students in Using Dictionaries

Dictionaries are useful as long as learners are able to access the information they contain both speedily and accurately. Some learners may not be familiar with dictionary conventions even in their own language. This involves training students how to read and understand the information contained in various entries. According to Scott Thornbury, the key skills involved in effective dictionary use are the following:

- recognizing features of dictionary layout, such as use of alphabetical order, headwords, grammar and pronunciation information, definitions;

- understanding the use of abbreviations such as adj (adjective), sth (something), A.E. (American English), etc.;

- awareness and discrimination of words with many polysemes or homonyms;

- cross-checking (when using a bilingual dictionary) that the translation equivalent that is offered is the best choice for the meaning that is required;

- using synonyms, antonyms and other information to narrow the choice of best word for the meaning intended. For example, a learner wanting to convey the meaning carefree but knowing only the word careless could use this as the starting point in a dictionary search;

- inferring the spelling of an unfamiliar word from only having heard it, in order to check its meaning in the dictionary.

            Teachers have to design dictionary activities as part of the classroom work. When students start using dictionaries, the simplest way to familiarize them with dictionaries is to present them a page or an entry from a dictionary and to point out what we can learn from it. A few activities especially designed for training students are suggested by two great authors Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury. Here are some examples:

Example 1: Prepare a quiz that learners can answer in groups, using their dictionaries. The words should be obscure because so that learners use dictionaries, as shown below:

1.  What is the past tense of

a abide b rend c rid d strive ?

2.  In terms of pronunciation, which is the odd one out in each group?

a incise b concise c precise

a death b breath c sheath

a rude b feud c lewd

3. What is the American equivalent of

a dinner jacket

b pavement artist

c holiday maker

d spare tyre

Example 2: A Definition Game. The teachers may give to students the definitions of words and the latter have to guess the words. Another possibility is to play this game in teams.

Example 3: Working on Collocations. Whenever students are required to match verbs with noun phrases they should look for information in their dictionaries. The most popular example is the one with the verbs do and make which associate with different noun phrases.

Example 4: Previewing vocabulary. Harmer suggests that teachers could come with a vocabulary worksheet containing words they will encounter during the lessons at the beginning of the week and ask students to use dictionaries to complete the tasks as in the following example:

  1. Why might someone be TOLD OFF?
  2. How might someone be IMPOVERISHED?

Example 5: Thematic vocabulary. For a project on films, students might use dictionaries, especially production ones, to find words and phrases appropriate for the topic.

Example 6: Devise word chains using dictionaries entries. For example, here is a word chain that started from the word horrid in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English:

horrid › unpleasant › (not) enjoyable › pleasure › happiness › feelings › anger › offensive › insulting › rude › annoy › unhappy › worried › anxious

Example 7: With groups of students using bilingual dictionaries, set translation tasks involving words with multiple meanings in both L1 and L2. Encourage them to cross-check the words to ensure that the translation matches the meaning required by the context.

Example 8: Dictionary use when learners are self-correcting their written work. The teacher can distribute examples of vocabulary errors collected from homework and ask learners to work in pairs or small groups, using dictionaries, to correct them.

Example 9: Encourage learners to guess the spelling of unknown words that occur during a listening exercise, for example. They may then check the spelling in the dictionary, looking up the meaning at the same time.

Example 10: Set learners the task of identifying which of different headwords matches a given meaning.

            These examples are meant to encourage teachers to design classroom activities in order to familiarize and train students in using dictionaries. 

 

Teachers should teach students how to use dictionary as it is an important study skill. Both teachers and students must be aware of the wealth of information dictionaries include. As teachers, we have to think of dictionaries as constructive language learning tools.

 

Teaching Reading Skills in the EFL Class. A Practical Approach

by Ovidiu Aniculaese, C.N. "A.T. Laurian", Botosani

 

Keywords: top-down approach, sub-vocalization, cluster of meaning, pre-reading, distracters

Of all the activities available to the English teacher’s class, reading appears to have been the handiest and the oldest. While, at times, textbooks focused more on charts and grammar exercises and other times they relied more heavily on pictures and other resources for free communicative activities, they have always very dutifully included reading texts too. Why is it then that, although EFL teachers have well-honed strategies for teaching grammar and a substantial communicative methodology, the current practice includes little in the way of an approach to teaching reading? Why is it that we ignore the need for such a methodology when students’ results in the reading paper of international examinations such as the Cambridge ones are a constant disappointment?

The first issue to consider is that of choosing the reading texts. Whether for short reading comprehension activities or, most importantly, for extensive reading assignments, the texts selected should firmly exclude older books that the educated teacher might feel tempted to recommend based on their own experience. Shakespeare, Laurence Sterne or even Charles Dickens may be priceless in terms of the insight they offer and should be on anyone’s reading list in their mother tongue, but, if read in English, they will only misguide the reader by teaching them old words and phrases that have disappeared from contemporary use. The efficient learner of English today will strike a wise balance between non-fiction texts such as magazines, travel guides and science books on the one hand and recent or contemporary literary masterpieces on the other hand.

When the chosen text is finally on students’ desks, it is useful to take heed of the top-down approach that current course-books use. Thus, a reading lesson will normally begin with some warming up to the topic, be it through a quick discussion of pictures, personal experience and issues regularly involved in the development of that particular topic. This practice relies on the concept that understanding of the text cannot take place in a void and that any reading experience will have to begin with such a warming up process, even if it is just a few seconds’ flash of ideas running through the mind of the student sitting in the examination room.

If students are ready to start reading, their teacher must make sure that they actually have the physical skills to do so efficiently in terms of speed. Several speed reading software programs are currently on offer and may serve that purpose well. What they particularly point out is the need to do away with the fragmentation of the reading process caused by primary level practices such as sub-vocalization and the equal focus on all the words in a sentence. The latter gives way to mechanical reading that ignores the importance of meaning clusters, while the former focuses on more or less loudly pronouncing the words one is reading, which hinders understanding. Instead, scholars recommend that readers focus their eyes on one group of meaning at a time, brushing over the less content-laden words and searching for the key words in a sentence; at the same time, readers should get rid of their love of hearing their text, focusing instead on seeing or even feeling the issues in the text, without even as much as one movement of their lips. If  our students are not coaxed into getting rid of these old reading habits and embracing new ones like the ones suggested above, they run the risk of developing the belief that reading is inherently difficult and uninteresting.

Getting the gist of a text before thoroughly reading it is one the tips that textbooks do not fail to provide. However, they do fail to explain the necessity of such an activity, which is why both students and teachers often disregard it as a waste of time. The fact remains that, without the help of such pre-reading, texts inevitably appear to be complicated, incoherent and finding answers to questions requires re-reading many times. To put it in a nutshell, pre-reading makes reading efficient: it enables the reader to discover the logical outline of the text, since they first read the introduction, the topic sentence of each paragraph and the conclusion, thus avoiding confusing details and focusing on the topics approached throughout the text and on its main idea, as suggested and clarified in the introduction and the conclusion. In this way, when dealing with detailed questions later, they will know in which paragraph to look, because they will have remembered a simple outline of the topics covered in each paragraph.

Another useful tool in the effort to facilitate understanding of complex texts is that of identifying the type of paragraph or text that lies before us. Thus, the sequence of sentences and ideas will appear more natural and even predictable if we can understand what the purpose of that message is and so, establish what category it belongs to: defining, classifying, asserting etc.

 

Text type/ function

Example

Independent functions

Defining

A thermometer is an instrument that measures temperature.

Classifying

There are two types of acid: organic and inorganic.

Generalizing

Women live longer than men.

Naming

The ridge behind the teeth is known as the alveolar ridge.

Describing

The north of Iran is mountainous and well watered.

Reporting

Several experiments were carried out successfully.

Speculating

It is possible that people from Peru colonized Easter Island.

Predicting

If water is added to Dettol, the liquid will become cloudy.

Text-dependent functions

Asserting

There is great danger to wildlife in the pollution of water.

Exemplifying

A good illustration of this is the oil released from tankers at sea.

Explaining

It kills all kinds of sea animals, including fish, plankton and other forms of marine life.

Reinforcing

Moreover, birds are also frequent victims, for they become oiled.

Explicating

That is to say, their feathers become covered with oil and they are unable to fly.

Hypothesizing

Certain tankers are believed to regularly flout the regulations governing the discharge of oil at sea.

Commenting (opinion)

If this could be proved, we should be in a better position to take action.

Concluding

As it is, the authorities are almost powerless and the slaughter continues unchecked.

Interaction-dependent functions (addressing the reader)

Conceding

Admittedly, the facilities are not yet completely ready.

Evaluating

Not surprisingly, several of the clients have complained.

Inviting

Let us now consider some methods of classifying metals.

Instructing

Calculate the difference before proceeding to the next stage.

Apologizing

Unfortunately, I cannot at present offer any explanation for this.

Suggesting

If time permits, we could consider making the journey by boat.

Complaining

The authorities refused to issue the necessary permit, so we were obliged to cancel the show.

Complimenting

You will, of course, easily follow the reasons for this.

Warning

If serious measures are not taken, our society may find itself in grave danger.

Source: Christine Nuttall, Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language

 

Difficult vocabulary is often an issue that students mention as a big problem in dealing with a reading comprehension task. Most authors give the simple advice of ignoring unknown vocabulary or, at least, trying to identify what part of speech that word is, so that one could get a rough idea of its meaning from the context. Another good tip for this problem starts from the realization that good writers usually do not simply parade difficult words, but often paraphrase them right after using them, especially if they are important to the message being conveyed. Thus students are advised to look for such explanatory paraphrases following difficult words or phrases.

Even when the isolated words are clear and the paragraph that covers our comprehension question is found, giving a correct answer may still be affected by the presence of so-called distracters. The problem lies in the reader’s temptation to choose an answer based on the fact that it contains words present in the text, without bothering to check if the meaning the text conveys using those words is the same as the one hinted at in the answer version. The reality is that the exact same words may be used in reference to a slightly different topic or they may relate to the same topic, but are used to construct a different message. That is why it is useful to have extensive class practice not only in choosing the right answer version (A, B, C or D), but also in justifying one’s choice and, most importantly, in gaining awareness as to why the remaining answers are wrong and why one may be tempted to choose them. Finally, distracters may include answers that are accurate, but turn out to be either too specific or too general. In the former case, the answer may be only an example or illustration of the idea in question, while in the latter, it may rely on the reader’s tendency to instantly use a text to draw general conclusions or reach ideas about life in general; however, this natural tendency should not be confused with the author’s particular message in the context of the reading passage.

Last but not least, a proficient reader needs to have sharp skills for detecting the author’s attitude. Some questions may not rely on information explicitly stated in the text, but rather on what one can subtly, though logically and directly, infer from the passage. Paying attention to attitude linkers such as sadly, fortunately, predictably, understandably, not surprisingly as well as the use of metaphors and other suggestive language and, essentially, to the introduction and the conclusion, may shed unexpected light on the message of a text.

All things considered, reading comprehension can only be successfully tackled if one gives priority to the gradual discovery of a text’s topic and meaning. Once our students have understood the intricacies of this approach, they are on their way to a world of English and rounded-off education which they can independently conquer.

Bibliography:

  1. Harmer, Jeremy - Just Reading and Writing, Marshall Cavendish, London: 2004

  2. Miculecki, Beatrice & Linda Jeffries - Advanced Reading Power, Pearson Education, New York: 2007

  3. Nuttall, Christine - Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language, Macmillan Heinemann, Oxford: 2000

 

 The 9th International RATE Conference

by Irina Creţu, English Teacher and MATE Member, School no. 13 Botoşani

 Keywords: conference, aims, life-long learning, language learning, schools syllabus, teaching methodology, plenary, workshops, theatre

Seen as a whole, The 9th International RATE Conference was a great opportunity for us all to exchange teaching ideas and many useful teaching materials, to take part in interactive workshops, to see old friends  and to gain new ones.  Teachers of English from all parts of Romania had the chance to meet  qualified trainers, teachers, speakers and text book authors  throughout the world  during these three days of plenary sessions, workshops, presentations, round tables and interactive debates. The conference speakers with a vast teaching experience introduced the audience in real debates on the new economic, political and cultural contexts for languages in Europe, on the new developments in language learning, on the schools syllabus and  teaching methodology, focusing on some aims: to provide access to quality, information, experience and materials, to promote self development in order to meet higher professional standards, to disseminate successful practice, to help teachers bring theory into classroom activity, to meet European standards in education, to offer in-service training courses in partnership with other institutions,to provide mentorship to newly qualified teachers, to encourage the lifelong learning of languages, to promote linguistic diversity and intercultural dialogue, to represent the interests of the teachers of English and make their voice heard in the community, to raise the authority of the teachers of English as professionals, to promote the Romanian cultural identity and values in a tolerant society, to develop and support world communication between English Language Teaching professionals. Thus, many of the special guests who sustained the plenary sessions captured the attention  through the ideas put into discussion: BETA Chair Cristina Nechifor introduced us in the conference issues, prof. Michael Kelly presented the strategic context for language teacher education and its implications for English language teacher education, prof. David Newby reflected on the role of the European Portofolio for Student Teachers of Languages, dir. Eugenia Popescu referred to recent developments and tendencies in Romanian education and training, insp. Anca-Mariana Pegulescu reflected on the socio-political and cultural factors and provision factors in language teaching education, prof. Rob Dean got inside the teachers'head by putting into practice some strategies for exam success, prof. Călin Andrei Mihăilescu stated for the idea of not preaching, but teaching in the class.

Furthermore, the workshops were thought to fill completely our time and to provide new ideas about more effective language teaching methods. Mentioning some of the presenters who introduced us in the teaching atmosphere is a great pleasure: Fanny Daou-Express Publishing, " Effective Language Learning”, Steven Dye-British Council Bucharest,  "Promoting Extensive Reading in the Classroom”, Lee Lyon-Peace Corps Volunteer, "Did You Hear What I Meant to Say? ", Darren Clarke-British Council Krakow Poland, "The Actor in All of Us”,Ovidiu Aniculăesei-MATE Botoşani, "Teaching Communication Skills through Sensitive Contemporary American Issues", Vanda Balaşiu-EDAR Vice-President Râmnicu Vâlcea "Creatively Yours", Eleonora Olaru-Teacher Trainer Iaşi, "Coaching Students for Exams", Cristiana Faur –Teacher Trainer, Mentor, Methodologist Bucharest, "Keys to Success", Loretta Mastacan-Mentor, Textbook Writer and Ramona Enescu-Teacher Trainer Bucharest "Flashcards Work Wonders", Gergo Santha-U.S. Embassy in Budapest and Jay Miller-Budapest College of Communication and Business, "Teaching Tolerance through English Summer Camps", Manuela Tripon-Bucharest, "Teaching Fashion as a Foreign Language", and the list could continue. As we saw, the presenters wanted to focus on training for the  real life, which is what we are trying to do with our students, becoming facilitators, mentors or guides to our confused students and their parents.

In addition to the conference  the  show offered by Jay Miller surprised us all through the power of communication and the spontaneity of the author who evoked the child in the hearts of us all.And finally,we could not end a prolific Saturday without a late visit to the theatre to enjoy the new version of Antigona , beautifully adapted by some of  the Romanian well known actors.

In conclusion, for all those teachers, trainers, professors and directors who put together all their efforts in order to get as a result a proficient conference, "I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks. " (William Shakespeare).

 

Exercises in Style as a Didactic Game, by Silvia Alexandra Munteanu, Liceul Pedagogic „D.P. Perpessicius”, Brăila

AbstractThis paper aims at pointing out the importance of didactic games as a useful means in teaching the stylistic diversity of the English language. Thus, I took as a starting point the suggestions offered by R. Queneau in his famous little book, Exercices de style.

Keywords: didactic games, exercises of style, vocabulary exercises, narrative techniques, creative writing, figures of speech, grammar activities.

 

Along the years, the game wasn’t favoured by a great number of teachers and psychologists in the teaching and learning process. However, there is far too much evidence showing that it can become a real instructive means for controversy to be even considered. What’s more, the ludic factor is one of the things that defines humans best.

Johan Huizinga, in his famous book Homo ludens, published in 1938, was placing the whole world culture sub specie ludi. He pointed out, among other things, that the game is the basis of art in general and of literature in particular[1].

In this sense, one can state that Queneau’s Exercices de style (1947) are an enchanting, postmodernist literary play of a spirit open to experimentation. It is a relatively short piece of creative work, which proves that play upon text, while letting your imagination go free, can lead to something really delightful. Raymond Queneau takes as a starting point a thirteen-line account of an insignificant incident on a Paris bus between two persons. A little bit later, the narrator meets the same young man talking to a friend, being advised on a button thing on his coat. This short incident is told in 99 different ways and styles, narrated in different tenses, from different perspectives, as a mini-drama, with an emphasis on colour and on the various bodily senses, as a mini-drama, in different poetic forms, in slangy or philosophical style, by changing letters and words, in an epistolary style, philosophically, as a dream sequence etc. What’s more, the result of all these transformations is not something chaotic or blurring, because the story told, the characters involved and the details presented are recurrent in each and every variant[2].

One must mention at this point that, even half a century before Queneau, the Romanian playwright I. L. Caragiale was a real forerunner of these “exercises in style” with his short story Temă şi variaţiuni, where he presents a four-lined piece of news from a newspaper, “Universul”, on a neutral tone.  It will be taken up four times, in different newspapers, told in different ways, on various tones by the representatives of different political parties. First, it is written in a complex sentence of almost a page in a declamatory style. Then he chooses to write it in Latin spelling as a charge abounding in rhetorical questions. Later, he puts it in French, using a highly precious style. Finally, the last one is a complete denial, mentioning that everything had been nothing but pure invention of the opponents.

First of all, we should point out that both in Romanian and in English, one can differentiate between joc and joacă, respectively between game and play. Jocul / the game is different from joacă / the play, mainly because it is governed by rules, making it more serious.

We are certainly not the first who have thought that these Exercices de style can become a valuable auxiliary material in the thorough study of a foreign language[3], in getting used to its subtleties. Even if the book is written in French, the method itself is not limited to a particular language. It can be used as a source of inspiration for virtually any language.

But how can they become a didactic game? It is known that the didactic games are different from the children’s games because the first ones represent in fact an activity imposed / suggested by the teacher. Moreover, the children’s games have no definite finality, thing that can not be said about the didactic games[4]. However, they both engender the idea of fun, although they are governed by rules (which sometimes give the game a serious tone and imply a certain tension).

The didactic games help deviate the students from the humdrum routine and boredom and can be “played” at any age thanks to their aims: action and competition with yourself and with other partners.

Queneau’s Exercices de style can become a complex didactic game, intended for advanced learners of English, which can be turned into a competition similar to the sports ones like the pentathlon or heptathlon[5], according to the number of tasks required. The advantage of having a single text to work on is that in a very short time the students have committed that text to memory, knowing it in minute detail. By doing this type of exercise, the students may let their imagination, creative talent, their fancies soar free, each exercise reflecting the individual imaginativeness of its author. It also helps students sharpen writing skills, expand vocabulary, practise grammar, awakening an interest in creative writing.

In the specialized literature[6] there is a great variety of game-like exercises, of which only two are of greater importance: the reconstruction exercises and the ones based on a linguistic unit (be it a word, phrase or sentence). In this way, the exercises in style can be included in the latter category, starting from a text-theme which will be subject to variations.

At the same time, as it will later be proved, the transformation exercises will also allow students to fully express their imaginative and creative talents[7]

Due to their complexity, these exercises in style can offer a wide range of tasks for different types of learners. Firstly, there are the imaginative learners, “the poets of the world”, who tend to personalize information. They would surely love doing activities such as: making the text metaphorical, turning it into poetry, providing a different ending, narrating the story from a different point of view. Then, there are the analytic or abstract learners, “the intellectuals of the world”. They like to work with facts and dissect them. The appropriate activities for them could be: logical analysis, formal letter, precision. And last but not least, there are the common sense learners, who like to apply theory and see practical ways of putting it to good use, excelling in down-to-earth problem solving. Their favourite activities would be: vocabulary (synonyms, antonyms) and grammar tasks (if clauses, parts of speech, questions, verbal tenses, reported speech).

We suggest the following text-theme, extracted from Test your prepositions and… laugh by Ion Lucian Popa, since it is long enough for students to do any kind of task required and funny enough to make working on it an enjoyable activity:

“There’s this little guy sitting in a bar, just looking at his drink. Then, this big trouble-maker truck driver steps next to him, takes the drink from the guy and just drinks it all down. The poor man starts crying.

The truck driver says: ’Come on, man, I was joking. Here, I’ll buy you another drink. I just can’t see a man crying‘.

’No, it’s not that. Today is the worst day of my life. First, I overslept and was late to an important meeting. My boss, outraged, fired me. When I left the building to my car, I found out that it was stolen. The police said they could do nothing. I got a cab to return home, and after I paid the cab driver and the cab had gone, I found that I left my wallet in the cab. I got home only to find my wife had left me. I left home and came to this bar. And when I was thinking about putting an end to my life, you show up and drink my poison…‘”.

 

These exercises in style can be grouped into five major categories, according to their aims:

1) Vocabulary exercises, for which we suggest:

 

a) Synonyms - to check and enrich their vocabulary skills (the same can be done with antonyms).

 

e.g. There’s this little and short guy and chap sitting and resting in a bar and a pub, just looking and examining his drink and beverage. He stays and lingers like that for half an hour and thirty minutes. Then, this big and stout trouble-maker and meddler truck and lorry driver steps and paces next to him, takes and grabs the drink and spirits from the pal and bloke and just drinks and sucks it all down. The poor and miserable man starts and begins crying and weeping…

 

            b) Precision – to practise units of measurement (time, length, width, weight, price). The text will thus become an accumulation of factual details, a real challenge for the abstract learners, more mathematical-like.

 

e.g. There’s this little guy of about 1.50m and 60 kg sitting in a bar of 75 m˛, with nearly 40 people in it, just looking at his 200 ml of drink in his glass. He stays like that for thirty minutes. Forty five seconds later, this big trouble-maker truck driver of 100 kg and 1.90m takes six steps towards him, takes the glass and drinks it in less than a second. The poor man starts crying with tears of half an inch. “This Friday, the 13th of June, is the worst twenty four hours of the 40×365=14600 days I’ve lived so far…”.

 

            2) Narrative techniques, where we suggest:

 

            a) Logical analysis – to scan and skim the text, to identify the narrative techniques (elements of plot, point of view, setting, characters, atmosphere, tone).

 
e.g. A bar – this is the place
An evening – the most crucial of the main character’s life – this is the time
A little guy, sitting in a bar, contemplating suicide – this is the main character
A truck driver who, as a result of his practical joke, is about to die – this is the other character
The third character, a witness – the narrator
A truck driver drank the little guy’s poison, without knowing it – that’s the climax
Mind your own business / Don’t play practical jokes on people, not even on All Fools’ Day – this is the moral.
 
 

            b) Different point of view – Changing the role of a narrator in a text and recounting the events as seen, heard or experienced by another character is not something easy. A different character may have an incomplete understanding of a given situation. We suggest the students to narrate the events as experienced by someone with very little awareness of the situation, making an inanimate object the narrator of the story (the glass of poison in our case). It is a challenging test of the students’ power of imagination.

 

e.g. This little guy keeps staring at me for half an hour. Now he starts playing with me and these two ice cubes hitting me all around give me headaches. Why isn’t he drinking me? I’m made for drinking, for God’s sake, not for being stared at. Oh, here’s someone else. He grabs me, holding me in a terribly hot and sweaty hand and drinks me up. No sooner had he put me back on the counter than he fell down noisily. I can’t see anything else because of this huge crowd around him. What could have happened? Is it because of this green powder with a funny taste on my bottom?

 

            c) Telegraphic style – to check the students’ ability to read for gist and to prepare them to write the summary of a text, leaving out the unnecessary information.

 

e.g. A little guy in a bar Stop Fired Stop Car stolen Stop Broke Stop Cheated by his wife Stop Unhappiness Stop Big truck driver comes Stop Mistaken suicide Stop.

 

3) Creative writing

The limerick – this exercise involves experimentation with the principles of versification which normally precede any attempt to transpose a text from one genre to another. Taking a basic text and putting it into poetic form is without question the most difficult and challenging assignment. The aim of this task is to check the students’ ability to get the main idea of the text and make them work with poetry patterns (poem structure, rhyme, rhythm, metre). Limericks, like poems, can be used to give students the chance to playfully interpret a passage in a mock-dramatic way.


e.g. There was a little guy in a bar
Who had had only bad luck so far
When it came to decide
To commit suicide
A big driver drank his poisoned jar.
  

4) Figures of speech

 Antithesis – The students are asked to write the exact antithesis of this text, a difficult task because some words do not admit of an opposite. They will be asked to avoid the unimaginative simple negation (it was raining-it was not raining) and to seek for each word, idea or event a contrary meaning. They must be careful to find a meaning that is contrary, not merely different.

e.g. There’s this plump woman standing outdoors, bursting with life, celebrating the happiest day of her life: she got the job of her dreams, won the lottery, bought the finest car, got an engagement ring from her fiancé…

5) Language styles

 a) Formal letter (for the administrative style) – suggested as an exercise to check the students’ ability to choose the appropriate language structures and vocabulary, the way they adapt them to the formal register and to practise the layout of formal letters vs. informal ones. Here are the beginning and the ending parts of a formal letter as suggested by us:

e.g.
Dear Sir,
I would like to inform you about certain facts that I witnessed yesterday in a bar. (…)
I enclose a form filled by the bartender with concrete details about the persons involved in this incident. For further reference you could contact some witnesses. Here are their addresses.
Yours faithfully,
John Smith
Note: Even though the slang can be found at Queneau and can be included here, we don’t recommend it since it is not literary.
 
            6) Grammar activities

            a) If clauses – the students will practise unreal and impossible hypothesis about present and past, type II, III and mixed conditional clauses. Moreover, they will have to make up chained IF clauses, by observing the right sequence of events, the cause and effect.

 

e.g. If this little guy hadn’t overslept, he wouldn’t have been late for an important meeting. If he had come on time, his boss wouldn’t have been outraged and fired him. If his car hadn’t been stolen, he wouldn’t have got a cab and he wouldn’t have forgotten his wallet there. If his wife hadn’t left him, he wouldn’t have left home and come to this bar. If he hadn’t thought of putting an end to his life, he wouldn’t have had poison in his glass. If the big trouble-maker truck driver hadn’t felt like playing a practical joke on our man, he wouldn’t be dead now.

            Note: By choosing the dialogue form, one can also use conditional clauses type I.

 

            b) Interrogation – to practise different types of questions (subject and object questions –with or without auxiliaries or question words, tag questions or indirect questions).

e.g.
Who did the boss fire?
Who entered the bar ten minutes later?
Did you notice anything strange about him?
Which were the things that made him take this decision?
He was quite miserable, wasn’t he?
Could you tell me if there were many people in the bar?
He asked me if I knew his age.
 

c) Verbal tenses – they are asked to change the tense of narration in order to practise verbal tenses. However, not all the tenses can be applied on this text, we will suggest them to turn the narrative present in the first part of the text into past tense and the past tense used in the last part into narrative present.

 

e.g. There was a little guy sitting in a bar, just looking at his drink. Then a big trouble-maker truck driver stepped next to him, took the drink from the guy and just drank it all down. (…) I leave home and come to this bar. And when I’m thinking of putting an end to my life, you show up and drink my poison…

 

d) Parts of speech – the aim of this exercise is not only to ask them to classify the words in the text into articles, nouns, verbs etc, but also to encourage students to distinguish between different grammatical values of the same word and produce their own sentences with them.

For example, here is usually an adverb of place, such as in: Is George here? But in our text here is an interjection: Here, I’ll buy you another drink. The same happens with after, which is usually a preposition: Do you believe in life after death? It can also be an adverb: Not long after, I heard about Mike. Or a conjunction, as in our text: …and after I paid the cab driver and the cab had gone, I found that I left my wallet in the cab…

These exercises in style should be given to intelligent pupils, advanced learners of English. Depending on the classes they have, teachers can choose between a shorter or longer text, an easier or more difficult one, a narrative or a descriptive text, written by a 19th century writer or a contemporary one. There is a wide variety of tasks that can be required for any given text and thus they serve as a diagnostic tool for the teacher, who can note areas of difficulty and take appropriate remedial action. Evaluation and grading are obligatory conditions of the didactic game.

In conclusion, the didactic game should maintain a perfect balance between the instructive and entertaining component: the moment the ludic side is overused, the students get entertained without being instructed, the same thing happens when the game is above their level of understanding, it instructs without entertaining.

 
 
 
Bibliography:
 
1) Crăciun, Corneliu, Metodica predării limbii şi literaturii române în gimnaziu şi liceu, Ed. Emia, Deva, 2004
2) Grigoroiu, Gabriela, An English language teaching reader, Reprografia Universităţii din Craiova, 2000
3) Harmer, Jeremy, The practice of English language teaching, Pearson Education Limited, 2001
4) Huizinga, Johan, Homo ludens, Ed. Humanitas, Bucureşti, 2002
5) Popa, Ioan Lucian, Test your prepositions... and laugh, Ed. Niculescu, Bucureşti, 2000
6) Queneau, Raymond, Exercices de style, Gallimard, 1993 


 


[1] In the case of poetry, things are more obvious.

[2] As expected, the term style in Queneau’s terms (as proved by his stylistic transformations) covers all the meanings which have been attributed to it so far: the style as choice / selection, as deviation from the norm, the style as addition to the communication core, as language style etc.

[3] See, for example, the course entitled “Stylistics and Creative Composition” by Gerald Herman (associate professor of French at the University of  California, Davis), whose results were published in ADFL Bulletin 17, no. 1 (September 1985), pp. 44-47. Herman’s students said that they had a lot of fun preparing particular assignements.

[4] J. Huizinga says that the game must not be imposed.

[5] The comparison is justified since the Greek athlon referred exactly to the prize of the competition.

[6] See Domniţa Alexandru, Exerciţiile scrise sub formă de joc, în „Limba română”, nr. 1, 1989, p. 297.

[7] The exercise is a method of learning or consolidation  which implies the conscious repetition of some actions, in order to get intellectual and physical skills and abilities in reinforcing the acquired knowledge, in developing reasoning , as well as the students’ creativity (see C. Crăciun).

Copy, Paste, Delete. The Motivational Quotes in TEFL

by Gabriela PACHIA, Colegiul Naţional Bănăţean, Timişoara

Keywords: Adjustment, Aphorism, Copy, Cultural memes, Delete, For and against, Information overload, Motivational quote, Paste, Quote of the day, Universal truth, Warm-up.

            “Speaking is a form of meditation.” (Osho)

 “Acquire new knowledge whilst thinking over the old and you may become a teacher of others.”  (Confucius)

Learning is finding out what you already know.

               Doing is demonstrating that youknow it.

Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you.

You are all learners, doers, teachers.

(Richard Bach)

 

            The fruition of a two-year research regarding the integration of the motivational quote in TEFL to high-school students, our paper represents a pleading for employing proverbs / famous aphorisms / cultural memes respectively. Starting from today's handbooks of English issued by Macmillan Publishers Limited and Pearson Education Limited, we have structured the warm-up moment of the lesson as a for and against debate on “the quote of the day”, chosen according to the topic, the students' grade and mood. The aim of our study has been the enlargement of the students' cultural horizon, the discovery of universal truths, interpreting / understanding the universe in an inciting and original way, urging meditation and the individual's perpetual adjustment to ever shorter-abiding concepts and values, yet not ignoring the fact that students / people nowadays display a penchant for concise / brief / relevant utterances.

            “The future world will be an increasingly exhausting struggle against the limits of our intelligence and not a comfortable hammock in which we should lie, awaiting to be served by our slaves, the robots” (WHum, 29). The alarming view on human wisdom reverberates with the recommendations of Hippocrates of Cos addressed to the doctors, i.e. “Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future; practice these acts.” (Apud CalC, 224; www.famousquotessites.com), as well as with the truths established by Confucius: “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice,  they get to be wide apart.” (Clem, 25; www.quotationspage.com).

            Together with the students of “The National Banat High School” and “The West University” in Timişoara, we have compiled a collection of English and Romanian daily / motivational quotes, alphabetically arranged in accordance with the keyconcepts, making simultaneous reference to the corresponding Romanian proverb / the folk lore. The quotes strictly refer to the day's lesson / unit, render the students' mood and problems within various groups of learners, engendering a relaxed atmosphere and a growing interest in self-understanding, e.g. Talking Point 2: Money (12th grade): “Money doesn't grow on trees.” / “Nu umblă câinii cu covrigi în coadă.” (ProsS, 24); Unit 7: The Ties that Bind Us (11th grade): “Our children will hate us too. (John Lennon)” (GoldA, 80); Unit 8: Sherlock Holmes – The Mystery of the Creeping Man (10th grade): “Dangerous people have dangerous dogs.” / “Cum e turcul şi pistolul.” (FCStar, 66); Unit 10: Fun and Games (9th grade): “Knowledge is power. (RStar, 90)” / “Cine are carte are parte.”

            Since reality permanently shapes itself, a multitude of the world's former spiritual achievements become less accessible to today's young people, while the traditional dictionaries of famous aphorisms sink into oblivion. Nevertheless, variegated mootivational / inspirational quotes attributed to personalities of the latest two or three centuries and dealing with up-to-date issues are to be found on the Internet (see www.quotationspage.com etc.). The quintessence of this process can be formulated as “Copy – Paste – Delete”, which involves the never-ending rephrasing of knowledge and cultural background.

            In the cyberspace, the information indispensable to life and the evolution of the species stays in latency, a truth signalled by the American researchers who attempted to copy / clonate the human mind: “Large parts of myself could still remain here, belonging to this newly-created space.” (CalC, 120). Copying and transferring the human knowledge and skills have been partially achieved: “in silico” copying / into the computer. The DNA itself relies on copying into its two spirals. The copies presuppose cell division since the mind is inclined to transcribe only half of any basic structure. The synchronization of reactions – that is of copying the spacio-temporal structures – is achieved by means of the axons, while “a pair of interconnected neurons tends to attract the equidistantly adjacent cells, thus generating a TRIANGULAR MATRIX of synchronized neurons, which extends over a certain area” (CalC, 182). The repeated copying / pasting of the minimum structure may colonize a whole region, in the manner in which a crystal grows or the wallpaper reiterates the basic pattern. At the same time, copying is to be done along great routes in the brain so that telecopying requires powerful stimuli. This stage in copying is suggestively alluded to by the aphorism “Ex nihilo nihil fit”.

            By means of natural and artificial selection, the supermen of the future will be able to reload their programme with items which will be vital for their survival so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past, on the other hand assuming the risks of the fierce competition between the most powerful, best-trained human  beings. As far back as 1859, Charles Darwin warned that, due to a glorious accident of evolution – called intelligence –, we have become the administrators of continuity on earth. The researcher pointed out the vital nature of copying / pasting both biological genes and cultural memes / genes along successive generations. “The meme is an evolutionary replicator, defined as information copied from person to person by imitation” (BEM, 226), in other words, a self-reproducing mental information structure analogous to genes in biology, so that “successful memes changed the selective environment, favouring genes for the ability to copy them” in the process of mimetic drive” (BEM, 230). The meme-gene coevolution has transformed the human brain into a selective imitation device” (BEM, 225), while culture has become a complex adaptative system. “Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via ‘eggs’, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.” (DawSG, 192).

Nowadays “information is a source of existence, comparable to raw materials or energy” (CSN, 59), overcharging the receivers' information processing capacities. In spite of these, information overload” generates paradoxical effects: “from the pragmatic point of view, information remains relatively constant”, “the amount of knowledge which society has in store will grow much slower”, “the level of knowledge is not directly proportional to the information supply”, “an ever-growing amount of knowledge loses its informative function”, becoming pseudoinformation, “the information consumption grows much slower than the supply”, “the gap between consumption and supply is increasing”, “more information means less information”, “the information overload damages the relationships between information and its effect” (CSN, 71-75).

            Whatever the aim of tomorrow's society – using the best in man, obviating / deleting the flaws and optimizing society, producing better-than-human computers or superhumans – computers will double their processing speed and megabytes, while the rhythm of the mental operations will require the deletion of non-functional information. “Only two centuries ago we could explain anything about anything merely on the basis of pure reason, while at present a great part of that elaborate and harmonious structure is collapsing under our eyes. We are stunned... We have discovered how  to ask significant questions and, in fact, now we urgently need some answers. At present, we know we cannot get them by examining our minds since there is little to examine and we cannot find the truth by guessing or inventing stories for ourselves. (...) We need science, better and more comprehensive science, not for its technology, not for the spare time, not even for health and longevity, but in the hope of getting the wisdom which our culture must acquire for its own survival.” (ThM, 175). As a result, the mental mosaics, which Jean Piaget dealt with, will facilitate new levels in the world's complexity by incessantly recombining symbols, that is deleting the ones which do not serve the new realities. “The composite cerebral codes fostered by the Darwinian copying competitions” in the pluriform media (CalC, 212) also reveal the fact that human beings develop more behavioural patterns than the animals by copying / transplanting / promoting those genes which ensure survival. “It is an elementary method of transforming the random into the structural” (CalC, 175). Furthermore, as Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, his sentences – books in general – are but a ladder to be climbed and later thrown away after having performed its functions.

            We have resorted to the motivational / inspirational quote since we want to offer the students a wide range of thinking patterns / models, presuming that the concise and manifold mental life is a possibility to clone future moral patterns of behaviour. In the mental grammar, juggling with many things simultaneously results in regrouping knowledge. “A dictionary is a compendiumn of regroupings done alongside the centuries” (CalC, 133) or, according to L. Wittgenstein, “problems are solved not by providing new pieces of information but by arranging what we already know” (Apud CalC, 131). On-the-fly evolution means that, if we extend a part of the knowledge, we extend the whole, therefore the brief motivational quote can play this role. The human mind has the ability to save or delete folders, can transmute symbols from one structure to another since it is both practical and an originator of new meanings / combinations. By commenting on these quotes, the errors of copying basic moral structures are avoided. Another condition is the repeated copying of the thinking patterns. Recent research in neurophysiology proves that man builds a mental representation of the depicted situation / actions. “Readers tend to remember the mental pattern built on the basis of a text rather than the text itself” (BMM, 44). The semioticians' opinions emphasize the presence of “not a play upon words but a play upon meaning. There arises a multitude of points of view, from whose prospect we can either love or hate a thing. The lateral thinking is this bizarre manner of permanently shifting the topic in order to re-examine it in a new, significant, different, moving light.” (Ph. Michel, 1985, Apud DCom, 208).

Through the lateral thinking, the human mind, as a cliché-generating medium, operates with the information, “the older idea is reinforced, becoming ever more rigid”, the familiar pattern turns into “more and more familiar” since “the mind conceives that stock of pre-established patterns which represents the foundation of encoded communication” (BG, 8; 31). In this way, “there is a tendency towards the extremes instead of trying to maintain the balance between them”; “The already established patterns gain more and more weight. This means that individual patterns merge into a longer and longer chain which is so powerful that it constitutes itself into another pattern”; “The mind (...) is efficient when it comes to generating new types of concepts but not when it has to reorganize them in order to update them” (BG, 35-38); “It is simpler to confront with two completely different patterns than to change an already existing patterns. If the new pattern is only slightly different, then it will draw nearer to the existing one. The existing patterns tend to «delete» the similar ones, the latter being treated as repetitions of the existing patterns. Hence a distortion of the provided information. The pattern which could have resulted as a consequence of the new information is covered by an existing one. If there are two patterns already, then the new pattern will migrate towards one of them. If the two existing patterns lie at opposite «poles», in all respects, then the new pattern will migrate towards one pole or the other” (BG, 207). “We build mental models, which represent significant aspects of our physical and social world, and operate with elements of those patterns when we think, plan and try to explain events in that world. The capacity to build and operate with valid patterns of reality endows people with an obvious adjusting advantage; it must be considered one of the fulminant achievements of the human intellect” (Gordon H. Bower, Daniel G. Morrow, 1990, Apud CalC, 159). Since “we are beings who believe everything” and “apparently, what we can believe and what we can perceive have no bounds”, since “the task of the human mind is devising the future”, the mind appears as “something which anticipates, a generator of hope” (DTip, 68). Accordingly, the motivational quote is constantly reinterpreted, while invoking aphorisms from different stages of human development, with the loss of its purity but not of its mythical validity. At the same time, the more striking the distance between the original and the modern variants is, the more firmly it is embedded in the consciousness of a larger but less educated Internet public. The folklore quote is privileged in spite of the iconoclastic attempts. In its thousands of hypostases, the motivational quote establishes, in a paradoxical and benefic way, a perpetual dialogue between the past and the present, between culture and the consumers, between the social strata, also standardizing society and undulating personality.

The ability to build and use such valid patterns of reality based on general truths supply people with an adaptative advantage. “The paradox of consciousness – according to which the more consciousness a person owns, the more aloof from the world they are due to their specific processing – represents one of the many to be found in nature. The gradual estrangement form the external world is but the price paid in the attempt to find out at least something about the world. The larger and deeper our consciousness about the world becomes, the more complex the processing stages necessary to acquire that consciousness are.” (BL, 86).

 

MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES

 

·        Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. (Mark Twain)

·        Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.” (Oscar Wilde)

·        “Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.” (Richard Bach, Illusions)

·        “What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.” (Pablo Picasso)

·        “Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to the country and to mankind is to bring up a family.” (George Bernard Shaw)

·        “The road to happiness lies in two simple principles: find what interests you and that you can do well, and put your whole soul into it – every bit of energy and ambition and natural ability you have.” (John D. Rockefeller)     

·        “The less you have, the less you have to worry about.” (Buddha)

·        “At some point your heart will tell itself what to do.” (Achaan Chah)

·        “It is only with the heart that one can see right. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

·        “Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tries, and a touch that never hurts.” (Ch. Dickens)

·        “No one can make you inferior without consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

·        Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers. (Richard Bach)

·        Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” (John Lennon)

·        “Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbour. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. (Mother Teresa)

·        “The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.” (T. H. Huxley)

·        “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.” (Martin Luther King)

·        Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other − it doesn’t matter who it is − and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” (Mother Teresa)

           

Bibliography:
 
BEM = Susan Blackmore, Evolution and Memes: The Human Brain as a Selective Imitative Device, in Cybernetics and Systems, Vol. 32: 1, Philadelphia, Taylor and Francis, 2001, pp. 225-255.
BG = Edward de Bono, Gândirea laterală, Bucureşti, Editura Curtea Veche, 2006, Traducere de Sabina Dorneanu.
BL = Derek Bickerton, Language and Species, University of Chicago Press, 1990.
BMM = Gordon H. Bower, Daniel G. Morrow, Mental Models in Narrative Comprehension, in Science, No. 247, 1990.
CalC = William H. Calvin, Cum gândeşte creierul. Evoluţia inteligenţei, Bucureşti, Editura Humanitas, 2006.
Clem = Jonathan Clements, Confucius. O biografie, Bucureşti, Editura All, 2005. CSN = J. J. van Cuilenburg, O. Scholten,  G. W. Noomen, Ştiinţa comunicării, Bucureşti, Editura Humanitas, 2004.
DawSG = Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976.
DCom = Vasile Sebastian Dâncu, Comunicarea simbolică. Arhitectura discursului publicitar, Cluj-Napoca, Editura Dacia, 2001.
DTip = Daniel C. Dennett, Tipuri mentale. O încercare de înţelegere a conştiinţei, Bucureşti, Editura Humanitas, 2006 / 1996, Traducere din engleză de Hortensia Pârlog.
FCStar = Prodromou, Luke, First Certificate Star, Student's Book, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1998 / 2005.
GoldA = Acklam, Richard; Burgess, Sally, Gold Advanced, Coursebook, Edinburgh, Pearson Education Limited, 2001.
ProsS = Wilson, Ken; Tomalin, Mary; Howard-Williams, Deirdre, Prospects Superadvanced, Student's Book, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2002.
RStar = Prodromou, Luke, Rising Star, Student's Book, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2000 / 2005.
ThM = Lewis Thomas, The Medusa and the Snail, New York, Viking, 1979.
WHum = Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Being: Cybernetics and Society, London, Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
www.betterworld.net/quotes
www.en.proverbia.net
www.famousquotessites.com
www.quotations.about.com
www.quotationspage.com
www.quoteworld.org
www.susanblackmore.co.uk
www.thinkexist.com
www. wisdomquotes.com

 

We Cannot Not Communicate, by Monica Giuchici

 

            Many a time has the classroom been defined as the “playground”, “arena”, “agora”, the “country”, or “global” area where learning is taking place. Yet, we all know that ”the map is not the terriory”, but a would-be reality where teachers and students are cooperating in creating and re-creating a community of people who share experiences, beliefs and values.

            Within this process of person-making, language is a major factor in establishing and maintaining a knowledgeable community, in our case of English speakers, where not just vocabulary and grammar interfere but a whole world of passions, hobbies, interests, needs and dreams. Thus, the English language becomes both a system of resources for making meanings and an impressive tool of functions meant to finally give the individual a choice of personal development and identity discovery.

            Being a three-fold process (emitter-message-recipient), the communication in SLL (Second Language Learning) determines a “funnel” type of development (Marty, 1908) which can be visualized either as a psychological model of attitudinal states and functions or as a concentric structure of circles where personal attitudes reverberate toward partners:

 

 


 

* NLP Principle

 

  
 

            When comparing and contrasting the two diagrams, we can identify the process of personal development by using one’s intrapersonal intelligence (Fig.1) which involves controlling one’s ill-feelings, passions, and idyosincracies only to in-build a personal strategy of positive attitudes and reactions whose intensity can be diminished to a neutral reaction toward one’s interlocutor(s). Whilst (Fig.2) amply delineates a whole range of personal attitudes in discourse in a cross-section of (Fig.1), including the development of interpersonal relationships in a complex array of attitudinal states, from submissive to dominating, unassertive to self-assertive, hostile to affectionate reactions in communication, all of which being controlled by a neutral panel button.

            Yet, why should teachers take into account such complex paradigms of personal reactions in communication? And how can they turn them into account within the process of teaching and learning? A possible answer can be offered by the New Curriculum and English Syllabus where a whole range of general and specific competences have been displayed and promoted as an inner two-level strategy triggering personal and social self-development as follows:

 

  1. Receiving the message which involves:
    • Identifying terminology, relations, processes;
    • Observing phenomena, processes;
    • Perceiving relations, connections;
    • Naming concepts;
    • Defining concepts.
  2. Primary processing of data which involves:
    • Comparing data, establishing connections;
    • Calculating partial results;
    • Classifying data;
    • Sorting – discriminating;
    • Investigating – discovering – exploring;
    • Experimenting.
  3. Patterning which includes:
    • Reducing information to a scheme or model;
    • Anticipating results;
    • Representing data;
    • Observing invariants;
    • Solving problems by modeling and organising algorithms.
  4. Experimenting which involves:
    • Describing states, systems, processes, phenomena;
    • Engendering ideas, concepts, solutions;
    • Argumenting statements and definitions;
    • Demonstration.
  5. Secondary processing of results which consists of:
    • Comparing results, output, conclusions;
    • Calculating, evaluating results;
    • Interpreting results;
    • Analyzing the situation;
    • Establishing relationships between objects and representations.
  6. Transfer which consists of:
    • Application;
    • Generalization, specialization;
    • Integration;
    • Checking;
    • Optimization;
    • Transposition;
    • Negotiation;
    • Establishing connections;
    • Adaptation and context adjustment.

 

 

However the two-level strategies of processing material are still dealing with the logical-mathematical and logical-linguistic intelligences, leaving the kinaesthetic, existential, spatial or musical ones aside. And whether we would like to admit it or not, the far majority of our students are of the latter kind. As a result, what solutions have been left to the teacher?

First, it is of utmost importance that teachers’ attitude both towards students and their teaching material to change! A possible answer has been offered by Carl Roger’s humanistic approach by having identified five qualities of a good helping relationship between teachers and students, the so-called PATER paradigm:

Prizing the students as imperfect human beings with many potentialities and placing value on the learner;

Accepting the learner as s/he is;

Trusting and thus valuing the person;

Empathic approach to experience the same process and feelings as the student does;

Realness by being true and fair both to self and student.

 

Being a two-way process, PATER describes a language path where both the teacher and the learner engage on a voyage of discovery which will continue all their lives.

A second valuable experience can be offered by LDP (Linguistic Psycho-Dramaturgy) which focuses both on content and relationships within a classroom activity. Using students’ experience and their previous knowledge on the subject and involving them along the process of learning as whole persons – mind and body – using both their intellect with its cognitive and conscious activities, but also their “unconscious intellectual activities, subconscious generalization processes, synthesis, intuition or deduction” (Bernard Dufeu, 1994) will help teachers to channel their students’ emotional overflows and use them as complementary assets in teaching a foreign language. The result of such an approach is activating new conceptions of relationships, comunicatios, and life for teachers and students alike.

Third, surveys of the workplace today, schools included, indicate that trust levels are at an all-time low. Thus, the US psychologist Jay K. Cherney proposes a two-way approach to community building attitudes and teaching through AI Theory (Appreciative Inquiry) as well as TA (Teambuilding Alliance) by opposing the former approach of “team as a machine” the metaphor of the team as an evolving, expanding mystery with untapped possibilities. Instead of repairing its previous level, an appreciative process dares to aim for unprecedented breakthroughs toward the team’s highest potential.

In conclusion, whether we take into account the personal, social or institutional dimensions of communication, the humanistic approach together with the Linguistic Psycho-Dramaturgy, Appreciative Inquiry, and Teambuilding Alliance offer as many insights, facets, and possible solutions to form a coherent learning paradigm within a pedagogy of communication.

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

1. Dufeu, B.

Teaching Myself, OUP, 1994

2. Dörnyei, Z.

Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom, CUP, 2007

3. Janney, R. W.

Pragmatics, Psychology, and English, NY, 1987

4. Rogers, C.

The Carl Rogers Reader, Kirschenbaum and Henderson, 1989

5. ***

www.teambuilding.com/services5at.htm

6. ***

British Council. Codecs Foundation Leaders of the Third Millennium, Bucharest, 2006

 

 

 

Romanian pupils' interest in CLIL

by Bogdan-Constantin Lazanu,
“Las
căr Rosetti” Highschool, Răducăneni, Iaş
i

Keywords: content-based. CLIL, top-down approach, bottom-up approach, questionnaire, favourite subject

 

Introduction

Throughout, the history of second/foreign language teaching, the word, content has had many different interpretations. Historically, in methods such as grammar-translation, content was defined as the grammatical structures of the target language. In the audio-lingual method, content consisted of grammatical structures, vocabulary, or sound patterns presented in dialogue form. More recently, communicative approaches define content in an altogether different way. Content in these approaches generally is defined as the communicative purposes for which speakers use the second/foreign language. Thus, in a class following a notional/functional orientation, the content of a unit might be invitations, and individual lessons might cover question types, polite versus informal invitation forms, and ways to accept or decline invitations. Similarly, the content of a Natural Approach lesson might be a game in which students must locate the person who matches a certain description by asking each other questions, thereby using language for problem solving (Celce-Murcia, 2001).
More recently, another definition of content has emerged in an approach that is the focus of this paper. Content, from that point of view, is the use of subject matter for second/ foreign language teaching purposes. Subject matter may consist of topics or themes based on student interest or need in an adult EFL setting, or it may be very specific, such as the subjects that students are currently studying in their elementary school classes. This approach is similar with the English for Specific Purposes (ESP) tradition, where the vocational or occupational needs of the learner are identified and used as the basis for curriculum and materials development.
Content-based models can be found in both the foreign and second language settings. They can be implemented to teach foreign languages to English-speaking children at the elementary school level in immersion programmes or applied to secondary and postsecondary classes. Models of content-based instruction differ in implementation due to factors such as educational setting, programme objectives, and target learners. All share, however, a common point of departure — the integration of language teaching aims with subject matter instruction (Celce-Murcia, 2001).
At the beginning of this year, I was selected as a member of the Romanian students who took part in the Intensive Programme CulTiFoLa, in Kecskemet, Hungary. There I learned about the concept CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), which seemed very interesting for me since I am also qualified in teaching ICT.
 
What is CLIL?
 
CLIL means Content and Language Integrated Learning is where subject content, (e.g. Science or History) is taught through a foreign language. This can be by the English teacher using ‘real’ content for language instruction or the subject teacher using English as the medium of instruction. Both methods result in the simultaneous learning of content and the learning of English.
There are also other more familiar terms for CLIL such as: Bi-lingual teaching, Immersion, Dual language programme, or English through other subjects.
In order to be effective CLIL implies 25% of all classes the students study at school.
 
What are the advantages of using CLIL materials?
 
The two main ideas behind CLIL materials are that the approach is topic focused and that students learn the language through the content. When the content is interesting and relevant to their other studies, students may be more motivated than when the focus is on the nuts and bolts of the language (i.e. grammar). The second idea is that, by using topics that they are familiar with and, if possible, that they have recently studied in their mother tongue, students will be able to learn more as they will already know a lot of the content and context. This familiarity enables them to pay attention to details that they would otherwise miss.
CLIL also promotes a holistic approach to teaching and learning. Rather than starting with the small and building to the large, it works the other way around. This ‘top-down’ approach, using existing knowledge, contextual clues and overall meaning is almost certainly faster and probably a more useful way of learning, than a ‘bottom-up’ approach (Adrian Tennant).
 
What are the disadvantages of using CLIL materials?
 
Many English language teachers worry about using CLIL materials because they feel they don’t have the background knowledge of the subject. Although this may well be true to some extent, it is important to remember that the material is only a ‘vehicle’ for the language. There are two other points to make here:
First, does the teacher need to know everything? Isn’t there room in the teaching/learning process for the teacher to learn as they teach, and sometimes for the students to teach the teacher?
Secondly, the worksheets in this area are designed to be teacher-friendly; s/he does not need to be an ‘expert’ in a particular subject or topic to be able to use them.
Another potential disadvantage is the view that other subject teachers might take, for example: 'Why don’t English teachers stick to teaching English and leave their subjects to them?’
S/He can dispel this problem before it even begins by talking to other subject teachers, explaining why they are using CLIL materials, asking for their help and finding out how you can help them by knowing what they are teaching and by using your lessons as an opportunity to review what the students are learning across the curriculum.
Learning should be about exploring new horizons together and enjoying the whole process (Adrian Tennant).
 
How to teach CLIL
 
CLIL teaching should take into consideration the following:
­        the teaching process should be student centred;
­        we should take into account individualisation and differentiation;
­        we should use authentic material – multimedia;
­        we should't forget about students' learning styles;
­        use Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences principles;
­        use project work.
 
Principles of CLIL teaching
 
1)        The subject matter content is used for language teaching purposes.
2)        Teaching should build on students' previous experience.
3)        When learners perceive the relevance of their language use, they are motivated to learn. They know that it is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
4)        The teacher 'scaffolds' the linguistic content, i.e. helps learners say what it is they want to say by building together with the students a complete utterance.
5)        Language is learned most effectively when it is used as a medium to convey informational content of interest to the students.
6)        Vocabulary is easier to acquire when there are contextual clues to help convey meaning.
7)        When they work with authentic subject matter, students need language support. For instance, the teacher may provide a number of examples, build in some redundancy, use comprehension checks, etc.
8)        Learners work with meaningful, cognitively demanding language and content within the context of authentic material and tasks.
9)        Communicative competence involves more than using language conversationally. It also includes the ability to read, discuss, and write about content from other fields (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).
 
CLIL in Romania
 
Romania is not one of the countries which adopted this kind of teaching. Thus, when I came back from that Intensive Programme in Kecskemet, I began researching into the Romanian students' interest in this issue. In order to find out more about their interests I designed the following questionnaire:
 
School: ……………………………………/ Age: ………
Questionnaire
 
1) How fond of English are you?
a) not at all     b) little       c) so so   d) much       e) very much
2) How important do you consider English for your future?
a) not at all     b) little       c) so so   d) important e) very important
3) What other sources do you use to learn English outside the classroom?
a) music   b) computer   c) books   d) movies    e) TV    f) private tutoring      g) all       h) none
4) What is/are your favourite school subject(s)?
5) If you find information about your favourite subject in English do you read it?
a) yes            b) no
6) Do you consider yourself capable of studying another subject in English?
a) yes            b) no
7) Would you like to study your favourite subject in English?
a) yes            b) no
8) Would you like to study other subjects in English?
a) yes            b) no
9) Are you interested in computers?
a) yes            b) no
10) What types of teachers would you prefer to have?
a) native English speakers      b) English as  Foreign Language speakers
Conclusions
Before applying this questionnaire to the students, I had established the following hypotheses:
1) The students who like English consider it important for their future.
2) Those who like English would like to study their favourite subject through English.
3) The students who would like studying their favourite subject through English would also like to study other subjects through English, too.
4) Those who like studying other subject through English would prefer to be taught by native English speakers.
 
As subject for my research I had 62 students from different schools and backgrounds. Their ages were between 13 to 15 years old. From all the students' answers only the answers of 61 proved to be relevant, since one of the students gave contradictory answers.
After applying the questionnaire to the students I analysed the data and drew the following conclusions:
1) The first hypothesis proved to be correct since:
- 73.77% of all the interviewed subjects like English;
- 19.67% of all the interviewed subjects like English more or less;
- 6.56% of all the interviewed subjects do not like English at all.
From that it results:
95.5% of all the students who like English consider it important for their future;
4.5% of the students who like English do not consider it so important.
2) The second hypothesis proved to be correct, too. The results show that:
- of all the students who like English 88% would like to study their favourite subject through English.
- of all the students who like English 12% would not like to study their favourite subject through English.
3) The third hypothesis also proved to be correct since of all the Ss who would like studying their favourite subject through English 78% would prefer to study other subjects through English, too.
4) The last hypothesis proved to be wrong, because only 29% of all the students who would like to study other subjects through English would like them to be taught by native English speakers, while 61% would prefer them to be taught by speakers of English as a foreign language.
 
Bibliography
 
Larsen-Freeman, Diane, 2000, Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, New York, Oxford University Press.
Celce-Murcia, Marianne, 2001, Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, Boston, Heinle and Heinle - Thomson Learning.
***, 2006, Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) at school in Europe, Brussels, Eurydice.
Websites:
http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp?docid=144587
http://www.clilcompendium.com/index.html
http://ec.europa.eu/education/policies/lang/teach/clil_en.html
http://www.onestopclil.com
 

Artificial Intelligence and EFL. Assisted e-Learning (AeL) and Splotchy Text Chatting

bSimona Pisoi, “CAROL I” National College,  Mary Petrescu, “St. Odobleja” Informatics High School, Craiova

Keywords: interactive materials, artificial intelligence programs, authentic materials, multimedia, simulations, exercises, educational games, Splotchy chats

 

Artificial Intelligence and EFL lessons

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of science that includes making and solving problems of technical or program modelling, problems which are mainly concerned with implementation of intelligent human behaviour - such as presentation of knowledge, teaching, learning, association, planning, explaining, acquisition of language etc. - into machines. John McCarthy coined the term in 1956, defining AI as "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines."

Artificial intelligence has been applied in different areas, such as engineering and medical field but it has been employed in language teaching as well. The 21st century promises great discoveries, especially scientific ones. The free flow of information is fundamental to education and access to information is one of the guarantees of respect for human rights. Information contributes to the development of a world where 80 percent of the people still lack access to basic telecommunications. This is one of the reasons why we should benefit the computers, networks and other media devices at hand as they represent easy ways of offering our students innovative, challenging and never boring activities. Easier said than done!

In the last few years, there has been an emphasis on the development of creative educational materials that supplement the traditional lecture format. Studies have shown that computers and Internet are effective media for language teaching and learning, a way of creating adaptive learning environments which stimulate students and increase their motivation.

        Assisted e-Learning (AeL)

Our primary interest was to focus on some instructional activities of using artificial intelligence programs, such as the AeL platform and a “talking robot”, Splotchy. The first one can be used mainly for reading, vocabulary and language exercises while the second one can be used especially in integrating oral practice and writing activities for beginning learners. They can be a tutor who offers language drills or skill practice; a stimulus for discussion and interaction; or a tool for writing and research.

The well known AeL platform is easy to be found in most of the Romanian schools. It can be used to create interactive materials, multimedia, simulations, exercises, educational games and other activities meant to bring fun and excitement during English classes, or if there is no time for this, there are also CD’s with activities designed by professionals, activities which can be used without the teacher’s effort to look for material and design other activities. The teacher just inserts the CD and the lesson can start. We have discovered that this platform is more than merely software dedicated to electronic learning, it can be a useful work instrument for both pupils and teachers, because these activities support the, teaching/learning process, they facilitate the learning process, stimulate creativity and competition, and more than this, they use simulation software as a substitute for the expensive or difficult to obtain didactic materials. If you decide to make your own lesson consider some key factors:

v       Use of authentic materials

v       Motivate students to focus on the learning objective

v       Keep the learners coming back because it is fun

v       Allow answer-correction

v       Provide feedback

v       Use a variety of activities, according to what you need

 

 

In our case, AeL was used to make students discover the way people celebrate Halloween all over the world, not only in USA. The text included information on Halloween and Halloween-like celebrations in Great Britain, Romania, Japan, Latin America and Sweden.


 

 

 


 

Figure 1 Reading text imported in AeL

 

Based on these fragments, students were next confronted with multiple choice and matching exercises, both of them designed in AeL in no more than ten minutes.

Objective items (multiple choice and association types) have been chosen in order to consolidate students' recently acquired knowledge about Halloween. Students have to choose the correct answer from four variants (they are easily administered and marked) and the teacher can provide feed-back immediately. Interestingly, the program shows the marks immediately and students have the possibility to correct themselves.

                The matching (association) items require students' ability to establish correspondences, associations among the elements which appear in two/three columns (Figure 2).   Teacher can use these two exercises in order to reinforce information while for the student it is essential to be aware of the registered level (indicated by the computer at the end of the test) in order to identify strengths and weaknesses for both teacher and student and to assess the effectiveness of this particular instructional strategy. This was by far the most pleasant and long-awaited exercise among students.         


 


 

  

Figure 2 Multiple choice and matching exercise 

 

Text chatting- Splotchy

A computer with the advent of the internet can be a medium of global communication and a source of limitless authentic materials. There are three basic chat modes in the internet: text, audio and video. The most widely used so far has been text chat.

Studies have shown that people generally remember 20% of what they see, 40% of what they see and hear, and 70% of what they see, hear, and do! Direct experience represents thus an important factor in shaping individual understanding. Engaging our students will actively stimulate a better understanding and a long-term learning.

We all say that the traditional teacher-centred educational system in schools is heavy and ineffective in providing adequate learning experience. Let’s keep in mind that the wide use of the computer entering schools in recent years creates an opportunity to improve traditional practices. It is a way to unleash creativity and build confidence. 

Splotchy is a program accessible through Internet, a program which makes natural language conversation with a computer possible. Users type in texts to communicate with the robot Splotchy. Splotchy chats with its users by searching words from its database, an enormous one. The problem with this kind of programs resides in the fact that sometimes these conversations lack consistency, as it is shown in Figure 3. Even from the beginning we are told that “he is cranky sometimes but mostly good”. It does not always record best results; “minimum wage is too low” has nothing to do with the student’s conversation. There are still spaces for developing more intelligence on AI in order to make this program more “real”.

 

 

 However, it can be involved at beginner levels and can successfully generate:

a) Oral and writing activities: individual and group (pair) work

b) Peer collaboration and evaluation: students can think individually or in pairs of the topics to write about (followed by oral practice or reading aloud their writing)

c) Role play and sketchLearners can use their revised writing as their role play Teachers can ask the students to perform the act in front of the whole class.

 

Figure 3 Splotchy conversation

 

Sites like http://www.cooldictionary.com/splotchy.mpl, http://www.tappedin.org/new, http://messenger.yahoo.com/, etc. represent a genuine attraction for students, too. They offer users the possibility to communicate without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable, although there are less possibilities of error correction.

There is also another major inconvenient: these chats encourage informal English and it is imperative that students be made aware of the differences in style between formal and informal text, spoken and written language, text chatting and writing a composition; an essay or a formal term paper, unlike the use of informal language, should imply a plan and careful expression. An example of such an unlucky piece of writing is represented by a composition handed in by a 13 year-old Scottish girl: "My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we usd 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-o kds FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc." (Decoded text: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York, it's a great place.")

 

Conclusions

With a wide variety of meaningful and motivating artificial intelligence, giving learners easier access to these tools can help them develop their language skills. This AI technology can provide learners with more interaction opportunities beyond the restriction regarding time and locations. It is hoped that language learning can be more fun and more efficient.

So, until computer AI improves significantly, we will not have access to communicative activities that can be considered as perfect ones. There will always be a “but”.  But at least there is a chance that the employment of elements of artificial intelligence will gradually transform the boring “drill” procedure into an exciting, multimedia, interactive adventure, even if it involves adventurous drills.

The use of AI in EFL classroom is important for both teachers and learners. Computers can handle a range of activities and carry out programmed functions at amazing speed; they can check exercises in a second, move student gradually from easier to more difficult exercises according to level and abilities. Although technology, especially computers, has not yet got to the point where it can make a real difference in language instruction in EFL classroom, it is experiencing extremely rapid growth as more powerful and inexpensive computers open up new possibilities in artificial intelligence and teaching/learning.

 

 

Drama for Everyone. Warm up, Move and Shout!

by Cristiana Faur, Teacher of English, George Cosbuc National Bilingual College

 

Keywords: drama, warm-up, mime, concentration, game, coordination, game, rhythm, voice, diction, movement, poetry, classroom, self-confidence.

Why is it that everybody who was bitten by the bug called DRAMA never recovers completely? Is it because the poison gives you the most pleasant sensation, or because under its influence you can still play like in the childhood, you can fall in love whenever you want, you can explore further surroundings, and enter the mind of the most bizarre characters. And that’s not all…..You tend to gather more and more followers. Students love drama! Students love using drama activities in the classroom and not only that they have fun, but they also learn a great deal!

What I intend to do now is share with you a few ideas about how to start lessons using such activities in which your students will have to move and speak and enter the territory of joy.

Warm up activities. What are these?  Some consider them as wrongly named. They should be called “cooling down activities”, as we intend to calm down our students, to take them away from the noisy and chaotic breaks. But the idea is that they are crucial for the development of the class. We all know they are multi-functional. It is true that they are fun, but we should take into consideration a lot of factors when choosing and doing a certain warm up with our students. It should answer the questions:

·        What is this warm up designed for? What purpose does it respond to?

·        What are the needs of my group?

By answering these questions, we can decide on the kind of warm-up that would suit the group, the lesson, the time of the day, the type of classroom we are in, the materials/realia that we  might need/have. 

1. Some examples of general warm ups:

·        Word association: it can be a good means of introduction. Everybody stands in a circle. We say a word which starts with the same first letter as the person’s name who stands on our left, plus our name. For example: money (as Monica was the name of the person on the left) and Oana (as Oana is the name of the person who has just spoken); then, oak-tree (from the name Oana) and Elena ( the name of the person who has just spoken). The words can be only nouns or what ever you decide, depending on what serves your purpose of the lesson. The activity helps students to recycle vocabulary, focus, and have fun.

·        Not doing what I’m doing: one person mimes an activity. Another asks: “What are you doing?” The first answers something which does not reflect the reality. This activity is good for concentration, but also for practicing verbs, tenses (present continuous), developing coordination, etc.

·        Trust game: it can serve as a good means of introduction, but a more thorough one. One persons starts talking about her/himself in terms of likes and dislikes. (You can choose anything you consider appropriate) When somebody else agrees with one of the likes or dislikes, (s)he takes the turn and continues the “monologue”. It is an activity which focuses on listening and interacting. Also, students get to practise the construction like+ ing-verb, or similar constructions.

·        Guess who is changing the rhythm: students can sit or stand, in no particular arrangement. What they have to do is tap or beat a certain rhythm. It is very important that the group behaves as a coordinated one. One volunteer goes out, another is in charge of changing the rhythm of the group. The volunteer enters and tries to identify who is responsible for the change. The rhythm can be changed several times, but by the same person and everybody must follow. This activity helps students to better concentrate.

 2. The voice needs to be warmed up as well, because it is an instrument which required tuning if we are to explore our vocal potential.

 Some examples:

·        The dance of the facial muscles: stretch and relax facial muscles, do “big faces” and “little faces”, make your expressions as large or as small as possible. You can make sounds as loud as you want.

·        Diction exercises: utter certain vowels or/and consonants more and more quickly.

·        Conducting the sounds: a person volunteers to conduct this exercise by raising or lowering the hands; we released a natural pitch with our hands out straight, and we raise or lower the pitch just as the conductor wants us to do. On this principle, we conducted the sound as well, exercising our voices at different pitches.

·        Music machine: one person starts by beating a certain rhythm as well as making a certain sound; somebody else joins doing the same thing: then, in turns we will join the little group, but this time each of us adding our new sound and movement to be repeated. Therefore the image of a machine is created. This helps building team spirit, coordination and synchronization.

·        Creating vocal environments: each of us will contribute to adding a sound that creates a certain environment such as the seashore, or the rainforest. This can be very useful in creating the necessary sound track in a dramatic interaction.

 3. Movement: physical warm ups can also be designed to relax and draw attention to various parts of our body.

 

Some examples:

·        Head to toe gentle movements: we start with our toes, then we tense and relax the major muscle areas. To relax the joints, we make circles with our wrists, elbows, shoulders, head, etc. It helps release tension, concentrate, gain positive energy.

·        Puppets: we must imagine strings attached to our fingers, which are being lifted from above, lifting our hands, and eventually raising our shoulders, straightening our back, lifting on our toes as much as we can. When we cannot stretch anymore, we cut the strings and our body will fall into a relaxed position, from the waist, all the muscles hanging loose, and the knees slightly bent. With every exhaled breath, the arms and head should reach further towards the floor. Besides releasing tension and creating positive energy, this activity is excellent for face and body expression.

·        Exploring quality of movement: we start walking freely through the room, and then we switch to different ways of walking according to instructions. (walk on hot sand, walk over ice, walk through mud in heavy boots, walk along a tightrope, walk through a minefield in the dark, climb a rock, walk with a pot on your head, following someone trying not to be seen, being followed and feeling nervous, walking through water up to the waist, walk with a fierce dog on a leash). It is a very funny activity which helps students to concentrate, to work as a group, to respond to verbal instructions.

  

I experienced all these activities during a summer camp in Ramnicu-Valcea, and ever since, I have used them with my students successfully, most often before teaching poetry. I tend to allow them to illustrate an image they like from a poem we have to study. That is why they need to be expressive, to use their voice, body and rhythm creatively. And in this way everything becomes easier and personal, in a positive sense. Through drama activities the poem tends to become part of my students’ personal experience and maybe that is why they love poetry. Or maybe, it is because, as Oscar Wilde said in his novel “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”, “I love acting. It is so much more real than life.”

 

 

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. "An Explanation of Learning Styles"

by Gabriela Mihaescu, "Al.I.Cuza " National College Corabia, Olt

Keywords: multiple intelligences, traditional classroom, IQ testing   

         Dr. Howard Gardner was a distinguished American cognitive psychologist, who suggested from his research findings that human cognitive competence actually is pluralistic, rather than unitary in design. His multiple intelligences theory touched off a wave of educational innovation not only in the United States but throughout the world.

            Traditional classrooms are often taught in the format of lecture, worksheets, and written tests. Each student’s learning style is viewed as being identical to the other students and students are therefore taught in the same manner. Gardner (1999) argues that by teaching in such a uniform manner, we are only reaching a small proportion of the children, those with strengths in the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. In order for education to meet the needs of all the children, however, the system must be adapted to address the variety of intelligences that exist in our society.

            A lot of theories appeared to make English language teaching easier for teachers. These theories were meant to help us understand our students better. So, Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983 suggesting that the traditional notion of intelligence based on IQ testing is too limited. This theory is meant to help teachers who have difficulty in reaching their students in the more traditional linguistic or logical way of instruction. Gardner wants to make us aware of the fact that whatever we are teaching or learning, we can connect it with: words (linguistic intelligence), numbers or logic (logical-mathematical intelligence), pictures (spatial intelligence), music (musical intelligence), self-reflection (intrapersonal intelligence), a physical experience (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence), a social experience (interpersonal intelligence), and an experience in the natural world (naturalistic intelligence). It is true that we don’t have to teach or learn something in all the above mentioned ways. We have to decide which one seems to be most effective as a teaching or learning tool.

            Gardner has proposed a schema of nine intelligences and suggested that there are probably many others that haven’t been tested yet.

1Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence -- well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words

2Mathematical-Logical Intelligence -- ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns

3Musical Intelligence -- ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber

4Visual-Spatial Intelligence -- capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly

5Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence -- ability to control one's body movements and to handle objects skillfully

6Interpersonal Intelligence -- capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others.

7Intrapersonal Intelligence -- capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes

8Naturalist Intelligence -- ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature

9Existential Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

 

 

 

            The theory of multiple intelligences offers a way to examine and form the best teaching techniques and strategies in light of human differences. Students are taught to be more intelligent in more ways, and on more levels than it has ever been dreamed before. The importance of a curriculum is to develop children’s own capacities and intelligence rather than transmitting knowledge and facts. A teacher who knows what children want to achieve, and how children get there, is more important than a teacher who seems to be an “all-knowing sage”.

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