RATE ISSUES summER / 2009

Editor's Notes:

Being a teacher of English can be so incredibly easy! You have the best chance at being popular with students just because yours is the coolest subject, you have the best shot at getting good results with your students, since English is that one subject students learn outside of school more than within and you can get free training and assistance from British publishers, because you serve their interest well, whether you are a good teacher or not.

Nevertheless, teaching English brings a measureless burden on our shoulders. While we inevitably have the most efficient and readily accepted communication with students, do we consistently use that opportunity to instill values and attitudes? Of the Teachers of the past, priests stand no chance of getting that close to students, while parents often have no clue how to teach such things. So what do we, the fortunate teachers, do?

Sadly, we either use our power over students to scratch the surface by sticking to the form of grammar and vocabulary or we comfortably encourage and reinforce materialistic/hedonistic values they already have.

One question remains then: do we actually have a duty to teach more? And another question mark: if not us, then who? Who will risk antagonizing the people that surround them for the sake of a … cause?

Ovidiu Aniculaese




Together To Learn, a Comenius Project (2008-2010)

by Iuliana Avadani,

English Teacher at Nicolina High School Iasi




Keywords: innovative education programme, bridging the gap in mixed-ability classes, ICT and online teaching-learning


1. Description


I have chosen to write a short article about the Comenius project as a way of disseminating information, but not only. The project takes places in three high schools in three different countries: "A.Antonelli" High School, Novara, Italy, “Nicolina” High School, Iasi, Romania and Private “Yavuz Selim” High School, Elazig, Turkey.  The course is divided in three modules according to the subjects: English, History and Literature. The students will work on a platform: each student has an account and he/she will be given an assignment which they will have to do within a deadline. They will also receive on-line feedback from teachers. The address of the platform is http://claroline.liceoantonelli.novara.it/comenius.  

 The English course focuses on short stories. Students will get to know them as a genre and will also study the short story A Christmas Meeting by Rosemary Timperley. They will cooperate and work on the same subject but with different tasks to suit their needs and learning styles. Peer education and independent time management will be encouraged to stimulate awareness of individual strengths and approaches to studying. As the course will be available in three different European countries, students may get in touch with their peers abroad and teachers will exchange ideas and results with their foreign colleagues.


2. General objectives of the cooperative learning platform:

  • to make students work together on the same topic so as to make them all feel involved
  • to encourage cooperation and interaction between students
  • to engage and motivate students by letting them do exercises they feel they can do or by showing them they cannot fail since the tasks are developed according to their needs
  • to make students feel motivated  giving them graduated activities according to the different levels' needs
  • to make students activate personal learning strategies and manage their time to familiarize students with online working and deadlines which may be used in future English classes with their homework
  • to give students the chance to self-evaluation and to correlate their self-evaluation with the teachers’ feedback
  • to evaluate the course and maybe to tell us what they have learnt , what changes/improvements they have noticed in their learning
  • to enhance ICT and online teaching-learning to improve teacher/learner relationship (students feel they are being tutored individually)


3. Activities


Activities range from reading comprehension activities to writing and researching activities according to the different learning paths.

Learning path 1 for weak students:

- reading comprehension exercises, yes no questions, true false questions, fill in the gaps to be assigned at weekly deadlines, matching

Learning path 2 for average students:

- reading comprehension exercises, answering questions in a specified number of lines to be assigned at weekly deadlines, short summary

Learning path 3 for good students:

- writing a summary, writing a new end for the story, rewriting a story as if you were one of the protagonists to be assigned at weekly deadlines

- write descriptions of setting and characters, fill in/ create a story map, matching (new words to their meaning), writing longer summaries, express personal opinions, writing about Christmas experiences.

            Students will start to work in October-November 2009. At the moment the content of the platform is meant to be material related to Step 1 Formative Step, that is to say info, ideas, reports which will enable teachers to analyse students’ needs and start planning Step 2 Learning Object Production.


In this issue:



ISSN 1844 – 6159

 Mental Health and Success in Second Language Learning


by Cătălina-Ecaterina Burlacu, “Ionel Teodoreanu” School, Iaşi


Keywords: mental health, second language learning, learning strategies, questionnaire,  research, inhibitions, risk-taking, favourable environment


Together with physical health, mental health contributes to our well-being and influences the outcomes of our everyday activities. Besides the fact that health may refer to particular forms of disease, disorder or infirmity, it also covers our physical capacities and certain inner aspects, such as one`s psychological resources. Inspite of the above distinction, the two components of health, physical and mental, are interrelated and necessary to attain overall health. The mind and the body cannot be separated, since good body health assures a state of emotional and psychological well-being and vice versa.

The article aims to focus on the importance of mental health in second language acquisition, specifically on how effective and successful second language learners are. It is undeniable that factors such as age, cognitive development, hemisphere specialization, language aptitude or personality have a sound impact on success. In keeping with this view, we will consider how the development of certain psychological barriers might disfavour or even impede SLA.

Studies have demonstrated that shifts in students` performance in SLA can be induced by their anxiety, shame, fear of making mistakes, worry about critics, uneasiness, depression, frustration, etc. All these psychological factors lead to certain behaviours that hinder the acquisition of any foreign language. Thus, taking into account the teacher`s mission to transmit certain values, attitudes and beliefs, it should also be part of his or her duty to foster students` positive thinking, self-esteem, self-worth, and optimism about the success of acquiring a foreign language. Therefore, one of the teachers` major role is to facilitate, support and improve students` learning by making them capable, autonomous, competent, efficient and confident in their choices and knowledge. One way to achieve this is through strategy training. Strategies applicable in second language learning are specific methods of coping with problems or tasks, ways of acting in order to achieve a goal, or conscious plans for managing information or emotions.

A research on learning strategies has been conducted among 41 subjects (5th, 6th and 7th graders) studying English at “Ionel Teodoreanu” school in Iaşi. They have been given an anonymous questionnaire focusing on 50 strategies (falling into six categories: memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective and social) that compose Rebecca Oxford`s Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL). The research has revealed that:

·        33 students (80%) try to find as many ways as they can to use their English (metacognitive strategy)

·        30 students (73%) encourage themselves to speak in English even when they are afraid of making a mistake (affective strategy)

·        28 students (68%) notice their English mistakes and use that information to help them do better (metacognitive strategy)

·        27 students (65%) use another word or phrase if they cannot think of an English word (compensation strategy)

·        26 students (63%) read English without looking up every new word (compensation strategy)

·        24 students (58%) try to relax whenever they feel afraid of using English (affective strategy)

·        22 students (53%) have clear goals for improving their English skills (metacognitive strategy)

·        16 students (39%) notice if they are tense or nervous when they are studying English (affective strategy)

·        15 students (36%) give themselves a reward or treat when they do well in English (affective strategy)

·        12 students (29%) talk to someone else about how they feel when they are learning English (affective strategy)

·        4 students (9%) write down their feelings in a language learning diary (affective strategy)

The research has revealed that the students are aware of their learning styles, that they feel comfortable enough when using English, they try to motivate themselves (self-reinforcement), and to cope with inhibitions, emotions, fears or missing knowledge. Although the findings are positive enough, the teachers should never forget about their students` personality and cognitive characteristics, but consider these as a starting point in the teaching process. Efficient learning styles should be advocated, while inhibiting traits should be understood and diminished through different strategies.

With respect to English classes, teachers might introduce specific activities and techniques in order to make students relaxed and confident and to lower their inhibitions. They might succeed in their attempt through guessing and communication games, role plays, dramatizations, songs, group work in a playful and comfortable environment. An equally important aspect that needs promotion in the classroom is risk-taking. Students might feel a sensitivity to rejection, being afraid of actively taking part in English language class, making guesses or using their knowledge of the target language. In this case, teachers might help them by constantly encouraging and praising their efforts, dessugesting the psychological barriers brought to the learning situation, providing them with practice opportunities, focusing rather on fluency activities and ignoring errors or making students self-correct. Moreover, if we want to have confident students, we should let them know that we believe in their capacity and success and convince them that the latter is obtainable. Making lists with their strenghts and achievements in learning a second language might be a good strategy to make them self-confident. Another aspect that teachers should be aware of is the low tolerance of ambiguity that certain students might prove in different contexts. Students might be dependent on certainty, dictionaries, teachers or word-for-word translation in their native language. Shame and frustration might raise and affect the normal process of learning. In this case, students should be encouraged to ask questions, make guesses, infere meaning from the context, paraphrase, use gestures to convey meaning or ask for help and clarification.

To conclude, our students` success in English language class is subject also to their emotional and psychological well-being, since positive thinking, intrinsic motivation, openness, spontaneity, and acceptance of errors are part of the ”commandments” for good language learning. All these feelings and attitudes should be cultivated and supported by the teachers too, resulting in and being determined by a favourable learning environment. In other words, students` mental comfort ensures their enjoyment of the learning setting and the people in it, their creativity and energy, their attempt to try new things, take risks and do the best of their abilities.




1.      Brown, H. Douglas: Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall Regents, 1994

2.      Gower, Roger, Phillips, Diane and Walter, Steve: Teaching Practice Handbook, Oxford, Macmillan, 1995

3.      Larsen-Freeman, Diane: Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000

4.      Larsen-Freeman, Diane and Long, H. Michael: An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research, New York, Longman, 1991

5.      Willis, Jane: Teaching English through English: A Course in Classroom Language and Techniques, Harlow, Essex, Longman, 1981


                         by Anabella Enachi,  ‘Grupul Scolar Ion Holban’ Iasi


        Greetings, fantasy lovers! I will humbly attempt to present in a series of articles, some basic fantasy fiction characteristics, representative authors and sub-genres. The first installment will briefly display a few typical fantasy characters and sub-genres some which, I am sure, you are already familiar with. Fare thee well!


        MAGICAL BEINGS - Host of supernatural beings generically called: ‘little people’ endowed with magic powers.

        FAIRIES: most familiar fantasy characters, humanoid magical beings, pointy ears, sometimes wings, look much like elves.


         Indoor fairies:

-         BROWNIES:  German mythology as kobolds.

- HOBGOBLINS or HOBS: good household fairies.

       Outdoor fairies:

- BANSHEES: women fairies of the hills, Irish mythology.

- TROLLS: Scandinavian mythic creatures live on hilltops, caves.

Swedish version of Princess and Trolls who  turn to stone in the sunlight.



        ELVES: popular fairies; genies ‘zine’ or ‘iele’ - Romanian lore; 3 kinds: good-white, evil-dark or elves who live in the hills, woods, caves.




        Tolkien’s elves: tall, fair or dark, angelic-like. Arwen & Galandriel ‘TLOR’.   




        Dark & Fair elves: Feanor ‘The Silmarillion’ & Legolas and Galandriel - Queen of the Elves ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – J.R.R. Tolkien.



        WIZARDS: magic users, the power is within themselves, different than sorcerers, magicians; hard core characters in epic fantasy, they train & protect the future leaders.

       - WITCHES - practice white or dark magic, can be good or bad.



       Gandalf the Gray from ‘The Lord of the Rings’


                                                             White Witch from ‘Narnia Chronicles’                                                    


        GOBLINS, BOGY or BOGGLE: grotesque elfin creatures smaller than people, wicked and mischevious.


        DWARVES: fairies of the underground small & fat, they dig for precious gems. Germanic mine-dwelling dwarfs and Scandinavian  mountain dwarfs. Dwarves and elves do not get along but Legolas and Gimli did in TLOR.



        Tokien’s Hobbits - a variant of little people more elves than dwarves.



        GNOMES: tiny, dwarfish, oldest creatures of the earth, deformed, hunchbacked, playful, embody the spirit of the earth.

         GREMLINS: youngest fairies, imaginary, tiny and naughty, cause mechanical problems.

        PIXIE or NIXIE (pixy/nixy): pointy ears, red hair, wear hats, mischieveous fairies.

        ELEMENTALS, PUCKS, SYLPHS: soulless beings inhabiting the air.

        LEPRECHAUNS: kind fairies, green-dressed shoe-makers.

        IMPS: little, mean devils, play tricks on men.

        BARBEGRAZZI & ULDAS: winter loving fairies live in the Alps; uldas dwell beneath the ice of Lapland and feed the animals.

        GIAINTS: the family of titans in Greek mythology.

        CYCLOPS: huge one-eyed creatures.

        POOKAS: shape-shifters, take the shape of animals and play tricks on people.

        DRAGONS: fire-breathing, huge, dangerous either evil, fierce enemies or wise friends.


                       FANTASY FICTION SUB GENRES

                         Children’s/juvenile fantasy

         ‘The Hobbit’ J.R.R. Tolkien

        ‘The Subtle Knife’ Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials trilogy

        ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ J.K. Rowling

        ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ C.S. Lewis, Narnia Chronicles

        ‘Eragon’ Christopher Paolini, Inheritance trilogy

                      Sword and Sorcery

        ‘The Deverry’ books Katherine Kerr

                     Humorous fantasy

        ‘The Carpet People’ Terry Pratchett

                High epic fantasy

         ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ from ‘The Lord of the Rings’  J.R.R. Tolkien

        ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

               Literary epic fantasy

         ‘ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, Narnia Chronicles C. S. Lewis



                            FANTASY SUB-GENRES

        High/epic fantasy: classic type of narrative set in an invented secondary world, written in archaic, formal language, themes from classic epic, myths, legends.

        J.R.R. Tolkien - best author & promoter of the genre of high or epic fantasy – ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy



        Christopher Paolini: Tolkien-esque high fantasy follower and good ‘imitator’ of his predecessor.




        Low fantasy: umbrella term, diminished supernatural setting can be in the real world flooded with fantastical elements, concern with the darker side of human condition, plain language.

          R.E. Howard ‘Conan the Barbarian’ is a low fantasy work that typifies

         sword and sorcery’ sub-genre.

        Celtic fantasy: the ‘new age’ wave, displays a generalized Celticism, myths & legends of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, The Isle of Man. Celtic Sword & Sorcery explores the dark ages of Celts, mixing The Welsh Taproot ‘The Mabinogion’ with Arthurian legends and Irish Celtic elements. Sword and sorcery fantasy: en vogue in the 20’s & 30’s is a fast-paced action-packed S & S tales, set in quasi-mythical fantastic settings; less lofty heroes; strong masculine bias but archetypal female characters have been portrayed lately: ‘Red Sonya’.

          Conan the Barbarian & Red Sonja.




        Humorous fantasy: ‘low fantasy’ uses puns, irony on traditional conventions, high fantasy clichees. Modern authors turn the genre into a melting pot, using parodies of other works. Terry Pratchett ‘Discworld’ series is one of the best examples of British comic fantasy. Modern humorous fantasy: extensive genre, borrowing, shifting perspectives & styles, imitating, inventing or debunking old traditions; rationalized fantasy anachronism; hilarious situations importing myth & fantasy in the contemporary world: the ante-hero is an anti-social, alienated, passive or just ordinary man.

Parodies: movies & books.

        Movies: ‘The Mask’  or ‘Ghost busters’.

        The ‘noir detective stories’ & ‘pulp fiction’- solitary, less-noble vigilante: Clint Eastwood ‘The Man with no name’.

        The XXth century boom of comic books and graphic novels generated ante-heroes: galactic heroes - Starwars Han Solo as people  need to identify themselves with less than perfect heroes.


                       STARWARS sagas


                SW prequels


        Superhero fantasy “S” Savior, Saint , Sacrifice,  Salvation, Special, Star, Superman



        Literary fantasy: C.S. Lewis ‘Narnia Chronicles’ - a children’s Christian fantasy: formal language, high epic elements: the quest, the prophecy, the betrayal, fight against evil, death & resurrection, travel to a secondary world through a portal. ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ Aslan - Christic figure. Narnia is a paradise attacked by the evil White Witch and saved by children. Fairy tales are the closest thing to the lost Eden. All creatures share a nostalgia for it & try to regain it, share the same faith & compassion ‘the light of caritas’  a feeling of charity and joy in doing good, a love for all living things that are part of the Divine love that illuminates all.


        Juvenile fantasy: heroes are children with unique abilities, magic powers, possessions, helped by their magic allies against their evil adversaries. Children as heroes - Harry Potter, Lyra Silvertongue, Sparrowhawk are the best examples, J.K. Rowling, Phillip Pullman & Ursula K. Le Guin.




Modern versions of heroes like: Highlanders Conner and Duncan McLeod.



 A Check List for Cambridge Exam Students preparing for Paper 2, by Michael Berman

Key words: exams, writing, mistakes, articles, punctuation, connectors, contracted forms, quality, quantity, idioms

The check list presented below was something I prepared for a mixed nationality Cambridge CAE class I was teaching after I received their first written assignments. It was clear that despite their different backgrounds, there were problems they had in common that needed to be addressed and this list was produced for the learners in an attempt to help them. I have since used it with other classes preparing for exams,
adapting it to suit their particular problems and needs, and you might like to do the same with it:


·      Check through your work before you submit it for the mistakes you know you have a tendency to make. For example, if you are a Polish, Japanese, or a Turkish speaker, it is likely you have problems in using the articles “a” and “the”, because you do not have them in your languages.

·        If you have written a particularly long sentence, check it for punctuation, and also to make sure you have used appropriate connectors. 

·        If the requirement is to produce a formal piece of writing, then do not use contracted forms.

·        Remember to include third person S for verbs in the Present Simple, preceded by “he”, “she” or “it”, or their equivalents.

·        Avoid repetition. If you have used a word once, try to use a synonym for it or an alternative when you refer to it again.

·        Try to upgrade the vocabulary you use. For example, there is always a more impressive adjective you can use in place of “nice”, and there are many alternatives to “very” – “extremely” or “incredibly”, for example. Take the opportunity to show the examiner just how much you know.

·        Focus on quality, not quantity. There is no point in writing twice as much as everyone else if all it shows the examiner is that your English is not up to the standard required.

·        Do not be frightened to make mistakes at this stage - just make sure that you learn from them. After all, it is better to make them now than in the exam. Now is a time for experimenting, but the exam is a time to play safe and to stick to what you are sure of.

·        Do not use idioms unless you are sure they are correct. There is nothing more noticeable than an idiom misused – it will stick out like a sore thumb.

·        Use certain structures in moderation. For example, an inversion after a negative adverb will impress the examiner, but not if you try to include one in every single sentence you write.

·        Pay particular attention to your opening sentence and your conclusion, as the examiner will probably look more closely at these, and the opening will clearly colour the initial impression he / she forms of your work.

·        Do not attempt to write you assignment twice as you will certainly not have time to do so in the exam. Take some initial notes if you like, but then write the actual assignment once only or you will find you run out of time.

·        If your handwriting is difficult to read, then consider only writing on every other line so have more space to make corrections in.

·        Remember if you wish to add a missing word, the sign for it in English is an inverted letter V placed below the line.

·        Also make sure you know how to use inverted commas for title in English as they come above the line, both before and after the name of the film or the book. For example, “War and Peace”.

·        The longer your sentences are, the more danger there is of making mistakes. However, writing too many short sentences that contain only one idea will not create a good impression either. What you need is to find a balance between the two extremes.



Michael Berman BA, MPhil, PhD, works as a teacher and a writer. Publications include A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom and The Power of Metaphor for Crown House, and The Nature of Shamanism and the Shamanic Story for Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Shamanic Journeys through Daghestan and Shamanic Journeys through the Caucasus are both due to be published in paperback by O-Books in 2009. Michael has been involved in teaching and teacher training for over thirty years, has given presentations at Conferences in more than twenty countries, and hopes to have the opportunity to visit many more yet.

Although Michael originally trained as a Core Shamanic Counsellor with the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies under Jonathan Horwitz, these days his focus is more on the academic side of shamanism, with a particular interest in the folktales with shamanic themes told by and collected from the peoples of the Caucasus. His MPhil is in Religious Studies from Lampeter University, and his PhD, submitted to the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines, explores the concept of soul loss and the way it is dealt with in the shamanic story - a story based on or inspired by a shamanic journey, or one that contains a number of the elements typical of such a journey. For more information please visit www.Thestoryteller.org.uk                



Creativity in Powerpoint Presentations

 by Prof. GABRIELA PACHIA, Colegiul Naţional Bănăţean, Timişoara

Keywords: Additional didactic material, Creativity, Improving classroom teaching, Media in education, PowerPoint Slideshow, Teaching / learning strategies   


“Despite the lush graphics effects so easily produced by modern

presentation programs, most presenters should return to formats

 nearly as spare as the old overhead transparencies…  

more matter with less art.”
(Robert Gaskins)


            The supporters as well as the critics of the PowerPoint presentation (Szabo & Hastings, 2000; Lowry, 2003) unanimously admit saving time due to this presentation software, instead of resorting to hand-drawn or mechanically typeset slides, blackboards, whiteboards, or overhead projections. With its ever more sophisticated style, animation, and multimedia abilities, it encourages the use of visual material, thus leading to a refined manner of delivering information (“AutoContent Wizard” even suggests a structure for a presentation).

            PowerPoint (© Microsoft Corporation; 1984 by Forethought, Inc., Sunnyvale, California, for the Macintosh computer; 1987, Forethought was bought by Microsoft and became Microsoft's Graphics Business Unit) is a presentation programme which has become ubiquitous in corporate boardrooms and business meetings, during staff-training sessions, also extending over the educational world due to textbook publishers (university lectures, teamwork, recreational / extracurricular activities, e-messaging etc.). “We conceived Power-Point to give control to the presenter by taking advantage of graphical personal computers, specifically Macintosh and Windows.” (GasPP). Slides may contain text, graphics, movies, clip art, speech bubbles etc., which may be freely arranged, alongside the use of a consistent style supplied by using a template or “Slide Master”. Moreover, the presentation can be printed, displayed live on a computer, or navigated through at the command of the presenter. For larger audiences the computer display is often projected by means of a video projector. Slides can also form the basis of webcasts (see wiki).

Since 1960, visual artists have presented their works by slide shows in museums and galleries: “Through the simple technology of the slide projector and 35 mm color transparency, artists discovered a tool that enabled the transformation of space through the magnification of projected pictures, texts, and images” (wiki). Colour slides are widely used, being accompanied by written text, either on the slides or as an intertitle, as well as by a voice-over. At present, “its use is often limited to an information transmission mode”, ignoring its qualities as “a very powerful and flexible teaching and learning support tool” (JoUse).

            With a view to ensure attractiveness to the theoretical content of the curriculum, but also the students’ ability to master modern forms of presentation, I have initiated a programme of achieving Microsoft PowerPoint-based didactic material apropriate for highschool instruction and education.

            The presentation topics envisaged supplementing knowledge and imagery / iconography related to the current lesson, as well as focusing on “burning issues” on the school / cultural calendar, e.g. “Shakespearean Parody”, “Shakespearean Wisdom”, “World Water Day”, “Fountains and Waterfalls”, “Water Wisdom”,  “Earth Day”, “Halloween”. The topics shaped themselves starting from the requirements of the local / national / international scientific manifestations, from school competitions, extracurricular / CDS activities, and from the agenda of cultural institutions such as The Romanian Academy − Timişoara Branch.

A great number of PowerPoint Slide shows, as additional didactic material for class and scientific papers, referred to the manner in which mass-media manipulates consumers, e.g. “Seduction in the Publicity Slogan”, “Parody and Identity Stereotypes”, “Consumerist Messages in Women’s Fashion Magazines”. Literary and artistic sessions fostered PowerPoint presentations such as “Monalisiana”, “Famous Actors”, “For You, Mother !”, “Flowers” etc.

While encountering the aridity of grammatical information, we have illustrated the grammar volume, English Hyphenated Compounds (Timişoara, Aethicus Publishing House, 2007-2009), with sets of exercises, formation rules, sets of illustrative examples – research work being thus attended by the creative side of graphic and animation achievement. The topics about English and Romanian culture and civilisation have found utmost expression in “London”, “Elizabeth I”, “Queen Victoria”, “Romanian Easter” etc., establishing the long-sought connection between compulsory and optional topics.

As a high-school counsellor, I have found an efficient paradigm for the lesson “Leadership versus Management”, by using aphorisms, charts, iconic imagery, pictures of famous leaders / managers, book covers etc. With “Barriers in Communication”, I managed to join scientific strictness and artistic colour images, animation, and musical background, being constantly guided by my purpose.

The weaknesses of creating at-least-50-slide presentations are as follows:

  • as an information transmitter, it is often excessive / aggressive − “It can easily be abused” (ShPP), facility in achievement leads to abusive usage (ShPP); presentations can become overloaded with material and effects (JoUse);
  • it is recommended “primarily for conveying a simple, informative message to a large group of people, but it falters with deliberative messages or discussions with smaller groups”(ShPP);
  • time-waster − tweaking a presentation requires collecting / selecting material, devising templates, reformulating, adjusting etc.;
  • numerous stages in elaborating the slides, graphs, effects etc.;
  • “it does not facilitate spontaneous discussion or discovery” and analytical thinking, encouraging superficiality (ShPP);
  • “the learning curve for the technology is often perceived to be too steep. There is always a reluctance, particularly among the older and less technology-orientated staff, to adopt the new technologies: the adage that «you can’t teach an old dog new tricks» is an appropriate perception for some” (JoUse);
  • the deprivation of “ethos” as the speaker’s subtle personal appeal (“all the available means of persuasion”, Aristotel, Rhetoric,  1355b, 25, the most powerful appeal), since “it takes too much control away from the presenter” – loss of eye contact, disappearance of verbal and non-verbal communication: posture, gestures (JaUse, 1997), destruction of communication strategies  (ShPP) –, since the message tends to be read off the slide or handouts flattening delivery, so that it is recommendable to start with the PowerPoint presentation instead of starting with ideas, allowing the orator “to choose the act best suited to the situation, rather than choosing the act best suited to the expression of his own nature (or available technology)” (ShPP); “Teach students to be strategic communicators” (ShPP);
  • “it too easily becomes a replacement for the presenter, not a reinforcement. Instead of a visual aid for the speaker, the speaker becomes an audio aid for the slides” − “Presenters rely too much on the slides for structure”, it leaves little room for checking the “audience’s” reaction (ShPP);
  • “Presenters fail to establish the connections necessary to make their message memorable. They often rely too much on the visual slide to make the connection and neglect repetition, examples, metaphors and other devices that make a message memorable” (ShPP), “bad language is linked to laziness” / “This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.” (George Orwell). Overusing PowerPoint in corporate communication / business simply means ready-made slides thinking for us. It  “masks the fact that the presentation does not have enough intrinsic attention factors in itself” or it lacks message; “Making connections is the foundation of memory and ingenuity” connections between parts and the whole, between cause and effect, between problem and solution, between principle and practice. (ShPP).
  • several risk factors associated with technology: equipment failure (videoprojector bulb), file corruption, incompatible media, lack of appropriate training in both the programme and the technology (JoUse);
  • the lack of artistic abilities / sense can sometimes be supplied by technology; “it does not handle text well” − “no more than three lines of text on a slide and no more than 6 words per line” (ShPP), no more than 2 contrasting colours pertext, no more than 15-20 slides per 50 minutes (JoUse, 2003, e.g. Race 1999; McCarthy & Hatcher, 2002; Presenters University; between 15-100 slides − Poll, 2009; no more than 2 graphics per slide; “too many slides can lose your audience” – MonC) − a policy formulated by architect Mies van der Rohe: “Less is more” (ShPP);
  • students with dyslexia find high contrast between text and background very difficult to read (e.g. black text on white background; it must be standardised  on reduced contrast combinations, e.g. yellow text on dark blue background);
  • effective teaching always takes planning: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” (ShPP);
  • the rapid movement does nothing to aid the presentation. Instead it detracts from the message” (ShPP), the tendency to speed up presentation;
  • it “can actually impede attention” due to complex, tedious, hard-to-decipher slides, distraction because of unnecessary competition, duelling PowerPoint (ShPP);
  • complex slides look make the audience bored and give headaches, the excessive visuals / animation / transition effects lead to the audience’s passive attitude (distance learning tinds to offer ‘complete’, tiring presentations: Race, 1999); presentation can become gimmicky;
  • “the widespread extraneous decoration / gaudy visual ornamentation” is   considered harmful (GasPP); 
  • “avoid using red and green combinations for emphasis – the most common form of colour blindness prevents separation of reds and greens”; do not use more than two text colours in a presentation (JoUse);
  • the risk of ignoring pedagogical norms; therefore, teachers should not “be seduced by textbook publishers that offer canned presentations that go with a textbook. You are the teacher. Not the publisher. Not the textbook. You make careful choices of what to use and what to avoid. A lot of what the publishers include is of little value” (ShPP);
  • wrong use of PowerPoint as an alternative to “largely text-based material that used to be delivered using ‘old technology’ (chalk and talk)” (JoUse);
  • computer-generated graphics involve copyright limitations, selection etc.

The strengths of using this manner for transmitting curricular information are as follows:

  • a flexible teaching and learning tool (JoUse), a high-powered software tool; involved in: “delivering automated instructional protocols in laboratory sessions; gathering the outcomes of discussions and polls during class activities;  providing tests and options for consideration during class sessions; question and answer sessions; interacting with web sites and information;  provision of self-study sessions with feedback after the class activity; student presentations (group or individual); during lectures and seminars” (JoUse; Mottley, 2003);
  • enhancing student performance, different learning styles, more effective for learner retention than traditional presentation methods;
  • professional presentations (i.e. knowledge about the material – the basic theory, the latest news or issues, additional quotations from predecessor or famous people, the ability to drive audience, the way to speak – speech speed, intonation or tone, volume) “immediately must get their attention. Tell a joke. Give a statistic. And if those fail, hit 'em over the head with a foam hammer. (…)  First, never have a large coffee, a prune Danish, and a bran muffin before delivering an hour-long presentation. Second, always give your presentation in a small room.” (Poll);
  • “the ease of use and the relatively shallow learning-curve required to achieve basic-level usage”;
  • “a relatively short-term investment of time at the start” receives “a long-term benefit in both the quality of their presentations and in the ease of maintaining and updating their teaching” so that PowerPoint is an investment for the future;
  • “very substantial increases in student satisfaction”, urging audiences to ask for ever more imaginative presentations (Jackson, 1997);
  • attention-grabbing”: transitions between slides, moving text, bullet points which «flew» to their places from somewhere off screen;
  • graphical respectability: PowerPoint works best for things to be presented visually, not verbally, being more expressive than one thousand words (Beakes, 2003, ShPP); “a picture aids in memory by making a visual connection to an abstract idea: a. Memory rests on connections. b. A vivid picture forms a solid connection.” (ShPP); accordingly, teachers should “avoid text slides and use text occasionally as a reference point for big ideas; e.g. the three main objectives of a lesson” (ShPP);
  • complex visuals for: arts, history, nutrition, geography, anatomy, zoology, physical education, informatics, archaeology, military sciences (JaUse, 1997);
  • originality in arranging the slides / grouping the material (“the wow factor”); creativity, the fascination of “handling” visual material (Mills, 2003);
  • the variety of wonderful templates (use “a customised style for each module” to be taught;
  • incorporation of more sophisticated visual and auditory media into presentations, the infinite number of combinations and effects: soft shadows, small objects; the use of the Internet;
  • increasing responsibility;
  • more flexible, non-linear presentations by using hyperlinking options and methods for jumping to particular; standardised animated text entry that is straightforward (e.g. ‘wipe right’ since it mimics the normal entry of text in a wordprocessor and feels natural for people from most western countries), font Comic Sans (a Sans Serif font such as Arial rather than Times New Roman: typographical texts recommend this  on a poster or presentation slide; a more casual font, Comic Sans is a popular alternative; for reading from paper handouts, etc, a Serif font is recommended; do not use gimmicky fonts and do not mix fonts unless for a good reason, e.g. presenting quotes; do not use capitals except for emphasis – JoUse); spare use of sound and video from within PowerPoint: sound effects can be irritating, video clips are very demanding;
  • portability of the files, especially on compact disks (CDs); consistent and minimalist with effects, transitions and animation;
  • team communication, feedback from fellow students, teachers, friends;          
  • as “persuasive technology” (wiki), it is “a presentation with visual aids is more persuasive”, “it improves communication effectiveness, the audience’s perceptions of the presenter, and the speaker’s confidence” (ShPP);
  • the electronic file format allows: distribution and modification by students, adding new slides during the teaching process, editing and printing the text, using Virtual Learning Environments − VLEs, sophististicated handouts which involve graphics, availability of the files before the lectures;
  • more sophisticated work sheets although slides should be brief, to the point, easy to understand;
  • ease of revising the material, also in its printed form; resorting to essentials;
  • communication delivered over multiple channels is more efficient than communication over a single channel (ShPP);
  • familiarisation with the technology.

Presenters and teachers should not ignore guidelines and pedagogical strategies, the key principles of presentation, the tips for a successful presentation (cf. MonC; JoUse, Poll etc.):

  • Plan carefully: know your audience (age, job, education level, nationality, audience-related preferences, the level and, accordingly, the content of the presentation), time your presentation, practice your presentation; “Most presenters, and most presentations, should focus on straightforward content. The fancy effects offered by today’s presentation software should be used only when they contribute more to the message than they might distract from it”; “When in doubt, increase the quality and density of the content and reduce the level of decoration. The emphasis should be more matter with less art.”; “Let simplicity inspire, and resist the lure of unreadable fonts, stock clip art, sound effects, and flying bullet points” (GasPP);  
  • Speak comfortably and clearly, fluently, control your mind, fear, or  nervousness, see your audience as your family, enjoy every part of your presentation, do not  speed up delivery;
  • Avoid simply reading out what is on the slide: provide headings / sub-headings so that students remain active and take notes;
  • Do not look at the floor or at the sky, keep looking at your audience. Eye contact will give them special feeling. Look from left to right slowly, and then look at the center of your audience, repeating the procedure after five minutes;
  • Use effective PowerPoint slides: (colourful and unique) design templates, standardize the positions of elements, colours used (keep to a minimum) and font styles within a presentation, be consistent with effects, transitions and animation, use colors that contrast; if you use dark backgrounds, the room should be fairly dark, yet the darker the room, the more likely the audience  find it hard to stay awake;   
  • Include only necessary information, limit the information to essentials, content should be self-evident;
  • Text guidelines: not more than five key topic areas, no more than 6 words a line, no more than 6 lines a slide (primarily headings or subheadings), avoid long sentences, larger font indicates more important information, font size ranges from 18 to 48, text should contrast with background, fancy fonts are  hard to read, words in all capital letters are hard to read, avoid abbreviations and acronyms, limit punctuation marks;
  • Clip Art and Graphics: should balance the slide, should enhance and complement the text, not overwhelm, no more than two graphics per slide, PowerPoint presentations can be saved in HTML format and inserted in a Web page. 

Mention must be made of the fact that the topics were not  imposed to the students, each of them being free to choose his favourite group or topic. Their work was rewarded with marks and diplomas, being also the foundation for their participation in scientific manifestations. As a coordinator of the groups, I enjoyed my work which, meanwhile, transformed itself into art, research work, exchange of ideas and aesthetic views, knowledge of the others’ personality – a connection between the static world of the handbooks and the dynamics of film-making.






1. Beakes, G., A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. A Personal View of Using Images in the Teaching of the Biological Sciences, BEE-j,1, 2003, in http://www.bioscience.hea  academy.ac.uk/journal/voll/beej-1-3.htm.

2. Gaskins, Robert, PowerPoint at 20: Back to Basics, in www.robertgaskins.com (sigle: GasPP).

3. Jackson, Steven F., The Use of PowerPoint in Teaching Comparative Politics, 1997,  http://horizon.unc.edu/ts/featured/1997-05a.asp. (sigle: JaUse)

4. Jones, Allan M., The Use and Abuse of PowerPoint in Teaching and Learning in the Life Sciences:  A Personal Overview, in Bioscience Education, Life Sciences Teaching Unit, Old Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee, 18.08.2003 (http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/journal/vol2/beej-2-3.aspx) (sigle: JoUse).

5. Lowry, R., Through the Bottleneck, in ILTHE Newsletter, No. 11, Summer 2003, p. 9.

6. Maier, P., Barnett, L., Warren, A. & Brunner, D., Using Technology in Teaching and Learning, London, Kogan Page, 1998.

7. McCarthy, P. & Hatcher, C., Presentation Skills, London,  Sage Publications, 2002.

8. Mills, R., Using PowerPoint for Learning and Teaching, in LTSN Bioscience Bulletin, No. 8, Spring 2003, p. 7.

9. Montecino, Virginia, Creating an Effective PowerPoint Presentation, in http://www.mason.gmu.edu (sigle: MonC).

10. Mottley, J., Developing Self-Study Materials with PowerPoint, in LTSN Bioscience Bulletin, No. 9, Summer 2003, p. 9.

11. Pollard, Wayne E., Hit 'Em with a Hammer (and Other Presentation Tips), in www. presentations.com, April 13, 2009 (sigle: Poll).

12. Powerpoint Presentation Tips: Easy Steps to Become an Expert on Presentation

in http://www.eyefulpresentations.co.uk.

13. PowerPoint Tips & Tricks, in http://www.bitbetter.com (sigle: PPTT).

14. Prescott, A & Oduyemi, K., PowerPoint Presentations by Students, ILTHE Newsletter, No. 11, Summer 2003, p. 14.

15. Race, P., 2000 Tips for Lecturers, London,  Kogan Page, 1999.

16. Sammons, Martha C., Students Assess Computer-Aided Classroom Presentations, T.H.E. Journal, No. 22, May, pp. 66-69.

17. Savoy, April,  Information Retention from PowerPoint and Traditional Lectures, in  Computers & Education, in http://www.citeulike.org/user/yoel/article/3987866, 30.01.2009.

18. Shkaminski, PowerPoint Presentations: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly http://www.shkaminski.com/Classes/Handouts/powerpoint.htm.  (sigle: ShPP).

19. Szabo, A. & Hastings, N., Using IT in the Undergraduate Classroom: Should We Replace the Blackboard with PowerPoint?, in Computers and Education, No. 35, 2000, pp. 175-187.

20. Susskind, Joshua E., Limits of PowerPoint’s Power: Enhancing Students’ Self-Efficacy and Attitudes but Not Their Behavior, in Computers & Education, Volume 50, Issue 4, May 2008, pp. 1228-1239.

21. Susskind, Joshua, E., PowerPoint’s Power in the Classroom: Enhancing Students’ Self-efficacy and Attitudes, in Computers & Education, Volume 45, Issue 2, September 2005, pp. 203-215.

22. Wempen, F., Microsoft PowerPoint 2000 Bible, Foster City, California, IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 1999.

23. http://www.computertips.com/Microsoftoffice/MsPowerPoint/aheader.htm

24. http://en.wikipedia.org (sigle: wiki)

25. http://www.mason.gmu.edu

26. http://www.presentations.com

27. http://www.presentationpowerpoint.com

Mentors and Teacher Trainers (a thank you note for my trainers)

by Margareta Lencu, “Nicolae Iorga” school, Iasi

Keywords: assessment become, change, destination, develop, education, hope, journey, mentor, observation, teacher trainer

Life is a journey … we must travel hopefully if we are to arrive



            Is it the journey or the destination that keeps our hopes up and makes it worth travelling? And is it hope or its realization that makes us really happy? These are questions that haunt us on our way to self fulfillment, or shall I call it our QUEST. And in our quest we all need guidance and who shall we ask for help but the wise and the experienced? We have all had our share of being guided either by teachers or trainers and we all know that some are better than others. But what are the criteria by which we choose our mentors? Is it the fact that we are looking for a bit of us in our teacher, a sign that he or she has once been exactly like us, innocent, desperate for appreciation, inexperienced but hungry for more knowledge and understanding of the ways of the world; that is probably why our search for guidance and for the right mentor is more like love than we are able to admit it.

            By letting ourselves be guided by the right mentors we give them the magic power to shape us and finally to teach us how to shape ourselves and maybe other people on the way. They are the best travel companions we can find, giving meaning to the world round us even when it does not seem to have any. Thus we gradually become something we always wanted, we turn into the image we always played in our minds, we change into a person that it is easier to live with. And isn’t becoming …, turning …, changing …, developing into better versions of ourselves the purpose of our existence as humans in the universe? That is why assuming the role of those who guide people towards their self fulfillment is the noblest of missions on Earth. There is nothing more difficult and at the same time more wonderful than helping other people become someone, improve themselves, discover all their abilities and potentialities and give life to their imagination.

            It is quite difficult to define an activity that transcends the simple partnership teacher – student and his/her family – school – educational authority; its meaning goes beyond the scientific knowledge of the subject and the daily school activity. It comprises extracurricular activity, attitude towards life, family and especially colleagues, capacity to relate to other human beings, empathy for the student, patience, ability to listen, creativity and playfulness. The mentor is the one you lean on when you think you might fall and a safety net when you actually fall. That is why the mentor needs strong shoulders to support all that hope that is not even totally his; and that not an easy burden            What goes around comes around and that is why the mentor’s fate is not only to give but also to receive; and what mentors receive is nothing less than a part of the energy of those they guide towards self awareness; they charge their batteries watching the way things grow and shape the world into a better place. They learn to look at things with the same young and hungry eyes as their students; therefore if our decision is to teach or train the young or inexperienced we remain young, at least in the spirit. That takes a whole lot of the burden off their shoulders and maybe makes it somehow worth doing.     

            The 1995 edition of the Wordsworth Concise Dictionary defines the term mentor as “a wise counselor” after the Greek name Mentor, the one who educated Telemachus. According to The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2004) the mentor is “an experienced person who advises and helps a less experienced person” defining also the term mentoring as “ a system where people with a lot of experience, knowledge, etc advise and help other people at work or young people preparing for work.” It is quite a comprehensive definition of what our teacher trainers do in schools nowadays although they are not called “mentors” in English. Not that the term would not cover what they mean to us and what they do to make us better professionals. I will not give names but we all know our “mentors”; and we are all aware of how difficult it is to walk in their shoes.

            However one day we were asked to try to walk in their shoes, we were taught how to do it, we were guided into seeing the world through their eyes. And it was not easy to become a trainer; just as it was not easy to become a teacher. Therefore we had to rely on our teacher trainers for help and advice; that was all that happened during our Course for Teacher Trainers at EuroEd in February 2009. We learned and most of all practised a lot of useful activities; we learnt how to know one another better, played games, did exercises of observation and assessment, and a lot of role playing.

            First we were reminded of what it was like to be a student, then we had to learn how to listen to one another. We were exposed to other people’s lessons and we were taught how to assess them not before we were asked ourselves to find assessment criteria. We learnt how to try to assess without judging and to point out mistakes without hurting anyone’s feelings. We actually learnt how to look at ourselves and finally become better assessors; after all isn’t everyone the best mirror for him/herself? We learnt how to observe, assess and then actually how to teach better. We were determined to see a different image of ourselves while acting as members of different clubs: we acted in plays, practiced gymnastics, painted and sang happily, like schoolchildren trying desperately to fit the small desks in the rooms that were assigned to us.

            It was all beautiful and fairytale like until we were given our assignments: a 3000 word teacher trainer’s diary and a file containing our work as trainers within our school. And then I was forced to contemplate one serious problem: I had no one younger than me in school to train and neither did my colleague, a teacher of French. Therefore we decided to train each other and that become another step in our friendship; this is how we understood that beside the ordinary lesson observation that we already did in school, we could learn a big deal from each other by following the steps and the items we learnt and practised at the course.

             We met in our Modern Languages Room and made a common plan for observing and assessing lessons; we identified our needs at the beginning of the training sessions and later, during the classes, we took notes on the management of the classes, the materials used, the objectives and the way they were carried through during the classes. We carefully noticed modern teaching and assessment techniques and finally we filled in a lot of charts containing all these criteria for a good lesson. After each lesson we met and we told each other what we needed to change or improve in our work to be more effective teachers of foreign languages. It was definitely an interesting experience for a teacher of English to watch a French lesson carefully as I was told it was interesting for my colleague to follow me through my English lessons; it also proved the fact that we knew the language better than we thought. And it also proved that such lesson observations and assessment could prove useful even if they do not take place within the same curricular area. We could exchange advice with Geography and Biology teachers and why not Mathematics and Physics teachers; we could also be more open towards suggestions even if they do not exactly apply to our subjects or to our teaching philosophy.

            An open mind is one of the prerequisites for being an effective trainer; therefore keeping our ears and eyes open is just what we should do not only as trainers but also as teachers and colleagues. We need to exercise our patience, tact and empathy, our childlike curiosity and our love for both subject and people along with the information we want to share. Without all these we cannot step into the shoes of our trainers and we cannot guide our students’ and fellow teachers’ safe journey. Therefore we must give hope so that our journey could end safely at our destination: effective education for a better world. Isn’t that a wonderful mission?


Advantages of introducing linguistics in the process of ELT. From etymology to the Naturalness Theory

by Veronika Piccinini, University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia

Key words: linguistics, methodology of ELT, etymology, Naturalness Theory.


Introducing linguistics into the ELT process brings numerous advantages, since it can help students learn in a meaningful and creative way. While exercises incorporating simple elements of contrastive and historical linguistics can also be used in teaching English to young learners, exploring the target language with the help of the Naturalness Theory is reserved to more advanced learners. This paper discusses various linguistically-challenged tasks related to teaching vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. 

 Many words have interesting stories behind them and this may help to make them memorable for learners [1]. For instance, it can be motivating and challenging for primary school learners to listen to the false myth about the etymology of the word “kangaroo” (up to 1970s believed to be an Aboriginal expression for “I don’t understand you”, which was uttered by a native person when asked in English what the name of the “hopping animal” was. Only in 1970s its true Aboriginal origin was traced.

 Upper intermediate and advanced students will find it challenging to do online quizzes (www.etymologic.com, etc.) or use the online etymology dictionary on www.etymonline.com. In order to promote an interest in the origin of the whole phrases or idioms, the students can be asked to explain their etymologies rather than their meaning (the meaning is given to them). Undergraduate students of Viticulture and Enology at the University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia, are often given idioms containing specific vocabulary related to wine (such as “I heard it through the grapevine”1), their definitions as well as some words and phrases related to their origin (e.g. “wire”, “to train vines”, “fast transmission of information”, “Morse”). Working in groups, the students try to explain the etymology of each idiom. Only after the groups have compared their answers, the solutions are revealed to them. Such a reversed approach to teaching idioms seemed to raise the students' motivation, since the students participate actively. A similar, partly reversed process is often used when teaching word formation to students of Slovene Studies – instead of having the students to derive words by adding the correct suffixes to the words given, their task is to identify the direction in which the word-formation process worked in pairs of words such as “revise – revision”, “educate – education”, “dine – dinner” etc. The aim of the activity was to make the students aware of the linguistic process called backformation.

 Comparative linguistics also seems to be a useful tool to promote an interest in the origins of words. Students can compile lists of borrowings between languages and realise the similarities between words belonging to semantic groups such as wellness (En. “aromatherapy”, Slov. “aromaterapija”, It. “l’aromatherapia”). A demanding task for the students of Environmental Studies was to find out whether any Slovene words have entered the English technical vocabulary related to environmental sciences. After consulting experts in this field, the students managed to find two words, “karst” and “polje”, both denoting specific geographical terms and originating from a geographically specific region in Slovenia, called Karst. Such tasks where the learners are used as the main source of information increase their motivation.

Moreover, comparative linguistics can also prove useful in cases when learners label a certain word as unknown. They are first encouraged to think of any (phonologically and morphologically) similar word in any other language they might have learnt. Doing this, the learners develop an insight into similarities between languages that may seem completely different and, to their surprise, often succeed in guessing the meaning of the word in question.

 Historical linguistics can also help resolve numerous grammatical problems that the learners face. This might even work with young learners – e.g. when they construct a plural form such as *childrens, the teacher can “warn” them in a humorous way that they have just constructed a “triple” plural and briefly explain them that the noun “child” has had a double plural ending since the addition of the suffix –en in Middle English, since the old plural ending to –er/–re/ was no longer transparent enough [2]:
OE pl. cildru > ME childre / childer + -en

Slovene learners also have difficulties in distinguishing the words “asleep” and “sleepy”. At this point it would be wise to discuss the history of the words such as “asleep”, “alive” and “awake”. An insight into their morphological structure through history shows that the initial sound /ə-/ originates from the Old English preposition “an” = Modern English “on” (+ life) [3]:

OE an līfe > ME /ən/līv(e > NE /ə’laIv/ alive      (on)  D.sg. /līf/

The construction of the old expression to be “on life” sounds logical to the Slovene students, as similar constructions are used in Standard Slovene: biti “na čakanju” (to be “on waiting”).

An extremely enjoyable and challenging (upper-intermediate to advanced) activity used to practise morphology is also the following one: The students have to find out if the given words such as “bushism”, “to misunderestimate”, “to google”, “internets” exist in English [4]. First, they work individually and classify the words into three groups – (“doesn’t exist in English”; “a fully fledged English word”; “I’m not sure if this is an English word”). The students are also asked to provide (guess) the meaning of the supposedly English words. After having compared each other’s findings, they discuss the correct answers with their teacher. Unexpected definitions and their false assumptions about the meaning of a word guarantee an element of surprise, which is one of the key factors affecting motivation (as in the case of the coll. AmE “sausage-fest”, which has nothing to do with barbecues but it rather denotes “a college party with too many men present”).


In terms of syntax, comparative linguistics has proved to be efficient in helping Slovene students to cope with the correct word order in English. Due to the much more flexible word order in Slovene, students have particular trouble in rendering sentences with two objects (direct and indirect) into English (e.g. “Maji je knjigo dal Janez” → (direct translation) “To Maja has the book given Janez.” → “Janez has given / gave the book to Maja” or  → “Janez has given / gave Maja the book.”). If students are acquainted with different classifications of languages (SVO / SOV languages; isolative / synthetic languages) as well as with the declination process, typical of Slovene, it is easier for them to understand the deviation from the standard VO word order in Slovene.


Mistakes in pronunciation which the students might make can be dealt with through the introduction of the history of the English language. If students, for instance, mispronounce the word “butcher”, they can be acquainted with the notion of hypercorrection, occurring when speakers from the northern parts of GB try to sound R.P.-like and mistakenly pronounce the sound /Λ/ (as found is <butter>) also in <butcher>. A language change which occurred in the 17th century, when /k/ and /g/ in sequences /kn/ and /gn/ were no longer pronounced in initial position (/k/, /g/ > Ø / # ___ n) [5], can help the student understand why /k/ is silent in <knot> and <knowledge>, but not in <acknowledge>.


Most of the language problems discussed above can be accounted for with the help of The Slovenian theory, a branch of The Naturalness Theory. The Slovenian theory, developed by a group of linguists from the University of Ljubljana, studies the behaviour of (morpho)syntactic expressions called variants. If given two variants, V1 and V2, and provided that V1 has the language properties a and b and V2 the properties c and d, it can be determined which property is more natural (from the speker's point of view) than the other. Then the distribution of properties b and d within the two variants is made predictable [6]. In practice, this means that it can be explained to the students why, for instance, it it wrong to say “two times” or more precisely, why one can expect constructions of the type “X times” occurring with high numbers and why constructions of the type “once” / “twice” occur with low numbers. Low numbers are more natural than high numbers; constructing forms such as “twice” require less cognitive effort for the speaker than constructing the more lengthy variant “X times”. What is more natural will tend to align with some other more natural characteristic [7], therefore low numbers are associated with the short variant of the type “twice”. Similarly, the theory can explain syntactic features, such as why it is the non-finite clauses that tend to use non-nominative subjects (as in “Do you want me to come”, whereas it is the finite clauses that tend to use nominative subjects) or why it is more common to find semi-modal expressions rather than the typical modals to express obligation. Moreover, the theory can also be applied to phonology or even pragmatics. With the necessary modifications, the theory in practice can also be presented to intermediate students.

Incorporating linguistics into the ELT process is undoubtedly a useful tool used to facilitate the target language learning. Teachers are therefore encouraged to use it, but to a moderate  extent only, since its overuse no longer contributes to the efficiency of the ELT process.



[1]   T. Bowen, Words and where they come from – Handouts received at the workshop. Šempas: unpublished, 2008.

[2]   F. Trobevšek Drobnak, Notes taken at the lectures on General linguistics, Linguistics of Germanic languages and English historical grammar. Ljubljana: unpublished, 1996-2000.

[3]   F. Trobevšek Drobnak, English Historical Grammar. Ljubljana: Faculty of Arts, Department of Gemanic languages and literatures, 1994.

[4]   C. Pugliese, Notes taken at the Creative Methodology fot the Classroom Teacher Training Course. Canterbury: unpublished, 2006.

[5]   M. Golden, O jeziku in jezikoslovju. Ljubljana: Faculty of Arts, Department of Gemanic languages and literatures , 1996.

[6]   J. Orešnik, Naturalness in (Morpho)syntax – English Examples. Ljubljana: SAZU, 2004.

[7]   W. Mayerthaler, Morphological naturalness. Ann Arbor: Karoma, 1988.

[8]   www.etymonline.com, accessed 21st September, 2008.


1 The expression “I heard it through the grapevine” comes from the telegraph system invented in the 19th century. Telegraph wires looked like the strings used to train vines so the telegraph lines became known as “the grapevine”. During the American Civil War rumours were often spread via the telegraph lines. When people were asked whether a particular story was true, they would often reply “I heard it through the grapevine” [8].

Planet Water Project

By Alina Cretu, CT “Petru Musat”  Suceava

Monica Lepcaliuc, CT de Industrie Alimentara Suceava


Keywords: project, educational project, partnership, water, evaluation, assessment


          The idea of this project came from the continuous realization of the importance of our students to acquire both linguistic competences as well as using their skills in the IT domain. For this purpose, we availed ourselves of an international eco-celebration and of our students’ interest in combining English language with an environmental issue – pollution of water and ways of protecting it from damage.

            This educational partnership involved the English teachers and their students from two technological colleges in Suceava, namely: CT “Petru Musat” and CT de Industrie Alimentara.  

            The project was prepared from February to March and the evaluation was set on the 23rd of March, the international day of water. It addressed students from the 9th to the 12th grades from the two high schools.

            The objective of the project was to engage our students into conceiving of short presentations (that should last no more than 10 minutes), focusing on the importance of water and the necessity to keep it unaltered. The types of presentations that the students had to choose from were: PPS’s, traditional written essays, drawings and videos.

            On that particular Monday, the students from CT “Petru Musat” welcomed their colleagues from CTIA and the activity started with a short presentation of the project and of the procedure of the evaluation of the works. The jury that was composed of fellow teachers from LPS and CN “Spiru Haret”, as well as of a representative of IPM, was introduced to the audience. After this moment, we proceeded to establishing the order in which students were to enter the competition. For this matter we used our motto of the project that was a quotation from the famous Chinese thinker Lao Tse, dividing it into distinct parts, which were drawn by the students. They were asked to reconfigure the initial quotation, which was to be the order of their entry. This unusual approach warmed up the atmosphere and stirred the students’ interest for the activity to come.

            For more that 120 minutes both the teachers and the students from the two high schools learned about environmental hazards, the quantity of water contained by living creatures, and solutions that we should adopt in order to protect water and its wildlife. Thus, we drew the attention on the fact that it is high time we paid more attention on environmental issues and arose people’s interest on preserving what nature endowed us with, and pass this treasure on to future generations.

            In spite of the fact that all the works and presentations were beyond our expectations, the jury had to comply with a set of criteria in order to achieve a more objective assessment of the presentations. The members of the jury had to take into account originality, creativity and ingenuity as evaluation criteria.

            After a deliberation of about 10 minutes, the jury “reached a verdict” and the prizes started to find their ways to the rightful “owners”. Everybody was awarded a diploma, some for merely taking part, but most of them for their successful performances. A final hierarchy comprised the best presentations.  

            Even though the prizes were not materially consistent, the participants enjoyed the surprise their fellow colleagues had prepared for them as a token of appreciation of their efforts. The audience was delighted to watch a brilliant performance called “The Boy and the Pond” acted by 3 students from CTIA, and also they were enchanted by the lovely eco-outfits presented by 3 “fairies of the water” from the CT “Petru Musat”.

            The activity was neither stressful nor boring for none of the present ones. The feedback on both the students’ and the teachers’ part was positive, fact that encouraged us to want to seriously think of a future collaboration that should involve other high schools in Suceava.

Five New Communicative Activities to Practice Speaking

by Angelica Popescu, Teacher of English in Lower Secondary School, Pitesti, Romania

Keywords: speaking competence, communicative situations, native-like proficiency

Name: The best things in my life

Grammar Structure: The infinitive

Type of work: whole class

Time: 10 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Materials: none

Procedure: each student will tell the class what he/she thinks is the best thing in his/her/somebody else’s life

Ex: The best thing in my/ your/his/her life is:- to fall in love;

 -to have a foam bathtub;

 -to have the long-waited for letter;

 -to find money in the last winter warm coat;

 -to laugh at yourself;

 -to have dinner in two;

 -to spend time with your friends;

 -to wake up and see that you still have got two more hours to sleep;

 -to meet friends and see that nothing has changed between you;

 -to discover an ever-lasting love;

 -to hug your lover;

 -to dance;

 -to see someone’s face when one gets a present that he/she has wanted for a long time;

 -to admire the sunrise;

 -to wake up in a great mood.                      


Name: Computer Instructions

Grammar Structure: The Imperative

Type of work: Pair work

Time: 5 minutes

Level: Beginners

Materials: a computer/ a toy computer/ etc

Procedure: two students learning to use the computer give each other instructions on how  to use the computer.

Ex.:Student 1: Turn on the computer.

Student 2: Restart/Start the computer

 St. 1: Shut down the computer

St. 2:Send the message     

St. 1:Browse   etc


Name: Air passenger’s rights

Grammar structure: The Passive Voice

Type of work: Pair work

Time : 5 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Materials: none

Procedure: Two students are role playing: one is the air-hostess and the other is the passenger. The air-hostess is answering the passenger’s questions informing him about his/her rights.

Student 1(passenger): May I cancel the flight?

Student 2(air-hostess): Yes, you are allowed to cancel the flight.

Passenger: If there is a delay, may I ask for compensation?

Air-hostess: You may be entitled to compensation between 125 euros and 600 euros depending on flight distance and the delay.

P: If there is a flight cancel, how will I know?

A: You must be informed in advance. Airlines found to be unsafe are banned or restricted within the European Union.

P: What will happen if I want to get there on another route?

A: You will be rerouted, sir.

P: And if the flight is in the middle of the night?

A: If you are denied boarding or your flight is cancelled , you may be entitled to receive assistance(catering, communication and an overnight stay).

P: What if the person is disabled?

A: Disabled persons with reduced mobility are protected from discrimination.


Name: Ringing the Alarm for Earth

Grammar structure: the modal verb “should”

Type of work: group work

Time: 10-15 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Materials: a blackboard/ a whiteboard ; chalk/ marker

Procedure: - divide the class into groups of three or four;

                  -brainstorm a list of scientists who could contribute to save the planet from the global warming;

e.g.: ecologist, zoologist, botanist, meteorologist, economist, geologist, anthropologist, etc

                  -give the students a list of these scientists to fill in the blanks with the missing letters;

                                                 E_ _ _ _ _ _ _ t     

                                                 Z _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t

                                                 B _ _ _ _ _ _ t

                                                 M _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t

                                                 G _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t

                                                 A _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t

                                                 E _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t

                      -match the name of the scientist with its definition:

1.Botanist                 a. a scientist who studies the rocks, soil etc. of the Earth

2.Meteorologist        b. a scientist who studies people, their societies, cultures etc

3.Geologist               c. someone whose job is to make scientific studies  of plants

4.Zoologist               d. a scientist who studies ecology

5.Anthropologist      e. a person who studies the way in which money is produced and 

                                 used, and the system of business and trade

6.Ecologist               f. a scientist who studies animals and their behaviour

7.Economist             g. a scientist who studies the weather conditions


                        -in groups, decide what these scientists should do to improve the Earth’ s living conditions/reduce the effects of the pollution and global warming .Each group will choose the name of a scientist and decide what that scientist should do.

e.g.The botanist should observe the plants all over the world and study the effects of the  global warming over them

     The Geologist should study the way in which The Earth (rock, soil, etc.) is affected by the global warming.

     The zoologist should find out how and why animals are affected by the global warming.

     The anthropologist can draw conclusions and tell the world how people have been affected by the global warming.

     The ecologist may ring the bell for those who continue to pollute the Earth, destroy the “green lungs” of the Earth.

     The economist should find solutions to use money in order to save the Earth from the global warming menace.

     The meteorologist should make scientific studies of the weather conditions which affect people’s life during the global warming.


Name : Spying the Nasty Neighbours

Grammar practice: Present Perfect Tense/ Present Continuous Tense

Type of work: pair work/group work

Time:10 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Materials: paper to write on it                                           

Procedure: Imagine you have been bothered by some nasty neighbours and now, you are spying on them. You are collecting information (by using binoculars) about these people and writing down what they have done lately/they are doing at present.

e.g. They are carrying something in a pram./ They have carried something in a pram.

  They are taking the baby’ s furniture out./ They have carried the baby’s furniture out.    

  They are changing the entrance door./They have changed the entrance door.

  They are repairing the roof of the house./ They have repaired the roof of the house.

Each group of students will write down at least three sentences based on their “observations” while “spying”. Another group of students(two or three) will play the part of the nasty neighbours and try to explain why they have done those “things”.

e.g.We are trying/ have tried to calm the baby down by walking him in his pram.

      We are trying/ have tried to find the mouse hiding in the baby’ s cot.

      We are changing/ have changed the entrance door because I have lost the keys to the house.

      We are repairing/ have repaired the roof of the house because sometimes it rains inside.etc.           

In this way, there will be a permanent dialogue between some neighbours who, on one side, are trying to accuse, and on the other side, their next door neighbours, who are trying to give a reasonable/ plausible explanation for each action.



The objective of this paper has been to propose useful classroom activities which help ESL and EFL students improve their speaking competence. To achieve native-like proficiency it is not enough for students to learn more grammar structures but to use them in different communicative situations.



English Teaching Forum, vol. 45, number 3, 2007

Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching,  New Edition, Longman, 1991

TESL Reporter, vol.41(I) , April 2008


About the author

Angela Popescu has been teaching English for thirty years in lower secondary school. Presently she is a mentor and a mentor-trainer at Pitesti University, Romania. Her professional interest is English methodology and EFL teaching.


Communicative English in the classroom

by  Viorica Luiuz ,“I. Teodoreanu” School, Iasi and  Roxana Lazar, “B.P.Hasdeu” School, Iasi

 Keywords: communicative English, information gap, communication strategies, authentic language.



The classroom cannot recreate the full impact of life in a natural environment but it can provide some of its characteristics. Communicative activities can be arranged in descending order, ranging from those that are closest to the communicative reality of the foreign language setting to those which are farthest distanced from that reality, but still retain certain characteristics.


Within the English class, topics and activities arising from the personal interests of students, although offered by the teacher (social, historical or cultural activities), or other subject matter content activities can be useful vehicles for motivated language use. These activities should be carefully selected to fit into an overall framework. If, for instance, a literary text is chosen according to the age and interests of the class, it should engage them personally as readers. Texts can also be talked about for their aesthetic and human qualities, and certain episodes can be re- enacted and re-created by students.


Classroom exercises are perhaps the most frequently used group of communicative activities. They usually are tasks designed to share some characteristics with the natural discourse. They focus on meaning and commonly involve information transfer or information gap; they display a degree of unpredictability and they require initiative on the part of the learners in establishing communication. Classroom exercises provide some opportunity for authentic language use with special attention on meaning. If learners are asked to perform activities appropriate to their personal interests, they will be able to communicate first with their teacher and classmates and ultimately, when the occasion arises, with those in the foreign language community who share their interests.


For most learners, it is important to recreate their own identity in their foreign language, by talking about their life-style, daily activities, interests and thoughts. Any contact with native speakers of the foreign language requires that at least some experiences should be expressed in that language. Therefore, some situations should be rehearsed during the English class: student as tourist, as guest, as attendant in a course, etc. when students interact with each other in pairs, small groups, or with the teacher. Some classroom interactions can approximate the authenticity and communicative force of real life communication if they are treated seriously; if the participants are encouraged to get to know each other and to treat the simulated situations as authentic. The topics depend to a great extent of the learners’ situations, their dominant interests and the relationships envisaged with the target community.


Exchanges of information are important because they present learners with the opportunity to practise and develop speaking under conditions that are as close as possible to those of normal communication, involving information gap, choice and feedback, given the language they have at their disposal.

In classroom terms, an information gap exercise means that one student must be in a position to tell another something that is unknown. This concept of information gap is fundamental in the whole area of communicative learning. The application of the communication strategies of sharing information between learners is mainly on the information gap principle and therefore, any activity which claims to engage the students in communication should be considered in the light of information gap.


Exercises involving an information gap thus create conditions which closely resemble real-life situations where the reaction of a speech partner is never perfectly predictable. Learners may be asked to perform activities in which to discover missing information. For example, each learner in a pair might have a map on which the names of some streets and building are not marked, or which does not show all the places visited by a character in a story. By questioning each other, they can obtain the missing information. In another activity, learner A might be required to get a personal description of a fictitious person, from information possessed by learner B in verbal or pictorial form, in order to fill in a text with blanks.


The inquiry can also be structured by means of questionnaires. Learners should ask other members of the group for information specified on the duplicated questionnaire. For instance, about their leisure activities, the town they come from or their opinions about routines.


During our English classes, we have used all kinds of activities which proved to be helpful for developing our students speaking and listening comprehension skills and especially, for practising their communicative abilities, which will help them in the future to become proficient in real-life situation of communication.

Another type of communicative activity based on the information gap principle is that in which learners are involved in giving or following directions. Learners A and B have identical maps. Only, student A knows the exact location of some building, street or other feature. He must direct B to get to the correct place.


The focus has obviously moved onto meanings to be communicated for a specific purpose. Learners more frequently want to express meanings for which they have not been provided with ready-made linguistic solutions. Therefore, they will need to develop a wider range of communicative skills and strategies to get these meanings across. In order to communicate effectively, learners will sometimes select forms that are not grammatically perfect. These errors constitute a natural and acceptable phenomenon in any situation where learners have an urgent need to communicate.


In the communicative English class, we should be looking for ways and means we can knit the skills and strategies together so that, within the practice context provided, they are used in a natural meaningful and purposeful way. This can help our students considerably in developing their communicative abilities which they will certainly need in real communication situations.

Comenius Mobility Grant in Oxford

by Liliana Mihalachi, Scoala cu clasele I-VIII Comanesti, Jud. Suceava


Keywords: Comenius grant, Oxford, methodology

          From the 19th to the 30th of January 2009, I had the opportunity to attend a teacher refresher course at the Lake School of English in Oxford, UK, under the Comenius programme which is part of the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme. The latter provides grants to teachers of foreign languages including English, to improve the quality of teaching and the pedagogical skills of language teachers.

          Using personalized pedagogical methods, the team of teachers of the school in Oxford answered promptly to the need of professional development of the teachers participating in the course in a relaxed, friendly and professional atmosphere. The course, significantly called Refresher Course in Practical, Creative Methodology for overseas English Language Teachers, covered a wide range of issues related to language and methodology, communicative teaching techniques and contemporary British culture, grouped into the four essential language abilities (speaking, writing, listening, and reading). Special attention was given to the prosodic features of the English language which distinguish English from other European languages as well as to a series of new technologies that can make learning active and enjoyable.

          The course was attended by teachers of English from various European countries and Latin America. Thus we had the opportunity to share views and opinions with teachers coming from other countries and belonging to cultures different from ours.

          During the two-week course in Oxford, we had a very diversified timetable with classes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on each working day, a visit to London on the first Saturday, a tour of the town of Oxford and a visit to the famous Christ Church College.

          The courses blended elements of methodology and language and made me aware of the diversity of methods that I could apply in the classroom to achieve better results and greater involvement of students. Even from the first day, our two trainers, Jane and Jess, proposed three concepts that we were going to put into practice over the two weeks of training: collaboration, participation and adaptation. Every day, we approached new topics, such as the various techniques of teaching texts, encouraging conversation, teaching stress and intonation, idiomatic expressions, types of intelligence, creating a blog and e-learning, all accompanied by numerous methods, exercises and games.

          On the last days of the training course, each participant created a blog on the internet in an attempt to become familiar with the new technologies, that sometimes our students master better than we do.

          I learned how to use online materials, how to modify them according to my students’ needs and how to adapt information to various types of learners. Also, lots of the exercises, role games and techniques explained were “tested” directly by us working individually or in teams and being helped by our trainers.

          And since a foreign language means also teaching a minimum of information about the civilization of the people who speaks that language, we explored different aspects of the British culture with elements of civilization, social indicators of traditions and customs, English social slang, stereotypes and prejudices. Besides the elements of civilization that we could experiment ourselves living with English families and trying to adapt to their daily timetable, we also visited a secondary school in Oxford, where the headmaster and the teachers welcomed us and accompanied us on a tour of the school, giving us explanations and answering our questions.

          The course provided me with the necessary methods to teach the main sections in the acquisition of language: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, correction, a necessary thing in order to keep the pace with nowadays education.

          The course also helped me focus on my professional development employing real examples of teaching and using the most modern methods of evaluating students' performance in class. By means of a cooperative and fun method of teaching, in a warm and welcoming atmosphere, this course has proved beneficial both from a professional and a personal point of view. It has given me more enthusiasm and more confidence in my profession.

          I also had the opportunity to make friends with colleagues from other countries, broadening my cultural horizon and confronting my professional and linguistic abilities and to achieve my dream of studying at Oxford.