SUMMER / 2010
In this issue:
in the Communicative Language Class, by
and Exercises in EFL Classes. Theoretical and Practical Aspects, by
Cătălina Ecaterina Burlacu
Trends in Teaching Vocabulary. Affective and Cognitive Factors,
by Ioana Constantinescu
Feedback from Students During Literature Classes. An Interactive Manne,
by Delia Ilona Cristea
Developing Students' Language
and Culture Awareness, by Irina Oltica Creţu
with Students’ Anxiety During English Classes, by Cătălina
for Learning English. Teachers' Influence in the Continuance of a
Student's Motivation, by Maria-Magdalena Dumitraşcu
and Dramatic Literature, by Cristiana Faur
by Elena Gărdescu
Optional and Intensive Courses . The
Need to Communicate in English, by Raluca-Alexandra Herăscu
Us Teach Students How to Write Creatively, by
Language, Methodology and Culture. A Comenius Grant in
Brighton, UK, by Bogdan Lazanu
The Role of Learning Strategies in SLA. Teaching Our
Students How to Learn, by Elisabeta Maxim
Interactive English with
Young Learners. Making Learning Enjoyable and Memorable, by Lăcrimioara
Crosscultural Communication and Teachers. The Need to
Learn How to Be an Effective Communicator Across Cultures, by Maria Roşu
Boadicea and the Wall. A Communicative Approach to
Teaching Culture and Civilization, by Mihaela Rosu
ISSN 1844 –
More and more teachers today complain about
the pressure from peers, students and parents to give high marks
indiscriminately. Add to that the compulsion to let students cheat during
exams when one is an invigilator, the tradition of turning an understanding
blind eye to homework that is either downloaded off the internet or done by
some good Samaritan and the tendency to kindly overlook truancy and you have
an almost perfect recipe for disaster in our schools.
Why do we allow this to happen? Is it because our own corrupt past and even
present puts us off all strictness? Or is it because our entire culture is
going through such turmoil that opportunism and corruption are as pervasive
as an epidemic? Or maybe because the system is so poorly organized that
professionalism is discouraged?
Whatever the answer may be, our profession allows no excuse. The reason is
that we, teachers, operate at individual level, and so, while we cannot
change the world, we can make a world of difference in one child or
another’s crucial early experience of life. They may not learn and actually
remember all the facts that we strive so hard to teach them throughout those
years of school, but they do leave us with a serious amount of life-shaping
experience: they practice and learn how to deal with a challenge, how to
deal with their own failure, how to respond to threat or temptation and,
generally, how to respond to their environment. It is up to us to make them
take the right attitude or just constantly try to cheat … life.
by Elena Gărdescu,
School nr. 149, Bucharest
Key words: children, class management, motivation, effective learning,
presentation on class management ”Control or chaos? Managing classes of
primary children in a positive way” Carol Reed tells a story.
Recently qualified and working with an unruly class of 7 year olds in New
York, one teacher watches a child throw a sandwich across the room. The
sandwich lands on the floor. The teacher says “Stop throwing sandwiches!”,
to which one student instantly replies: “ It’s too late, sir! It’s no point
in saying that, sir! He’s already thrown the sandwich!”
It’s an agonizing moment when the teacher wonders what to do. He walks very
slowly across the room, picks up the sandwich and eats it.
That moment wins him the amazement and respect of the whole class.
The teacher concludes: “They don’t teach you how to deal with flying
sandwiches in the University!”.
Indeed, they don’t, but we are expected to deal with all sorts of problems
from the very first lesson.
Unexpected and disruptive behaviour may occur at any time in the lesson and
you might not be as inspired as the teacher who dealt with the sandwich.
Here are a few points to consider in teaching kids:
1. Children will always challenge you, to see how far they can go.
There is nothing new in this assumption. We all did that as kids. Imagine
the children’s response if the teacher had started a moralizing speech on
how disrespectful throwing sandwiches is. The children in the story were so
amazed because they expected being told off. The last thing they expected
was natural behaviour. Instead of reproaches and blame thrown upon one or
more students, think of a set of simple rules to set up and agree with from
the very first lesson and keep to the rules.
2. Children expect to learn something new in each lesson
Curiosity is what characterizes kids. There must be something new you bring
to each lesson- new vocabulary, a new game, new pictures, a new song.
However, developing skills practice involves routine. Even so, you have to
raise the children’s awareness on each step they have made forward ”You see,
now you can tell a story” or “You see, now you can understand the dialogue
on the CD completely” This gives the kids a sense of achievement and
motivation that will make wonders.
3. Children will learn when they are challenged.
Children are active in class if the task you give them is a little more
difficult than what they can do. But what’s “a little”? It’s what Krashen
and Terrel called “n+1” in their Natural Approach theory. Successful
acquisition occurs when the learners have to understand input that is a
little beyond their present level. This is particularly true in the case of
developing oral fluency in which new vocabulary is regularly added to
structures the speakers already use.
4. Children expect a certain routine
Kids feel safe when they know what comes next. The foreign language lesson
is a new experience in itself. When the children can anticipate what they
are supposed to do, they will feel confident and secure. Accurate lesson
planning is the key to creating the climate of confidence, as it inspires
the children with the feeling that the teacher is a responsible adult who is
in control and knows what to do.
5. Children get bored easily
Variety is a basic requirement of the lesson. In a primary class, activities
need to be simple and they must not last long. If we want to teach the
children a poem, for example, we can plan a sequence of activities including
repetition, role play, different intonation, movement, drawing- all focused
on the same language input. Alternatively the kids need to be involved in
both stirring and settling activities.
6. Children learn differently
The Multiple Intelligences theory has shown the diversity of ways in which
people learn. If you want your lesson to be effective, it needs to be a
combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic stimuli (e.g. using
flashcards, CDs, action rhymes in the same lesson).
7. Children expect you to be firm but fair.
Evaluation in primary school is a painful issue. Apart from being teachers
of English, we are educators. Students learn such values as fairness and
equality of chances if they are treated fairly and equally. Besides, we need
to evaluate in the same way we teach – through games, picture dictation,
oral interaction, etc.
8. You are expected to be flexible and tolerant.
If the children feel that you can understand their hesitations and their
feelings, they will definitely understand yours. In class, children follow
examples and models and the first one is the teacher. Some procedures and
methods which work with some groups may not work with others. The ‘trial and
error’ strategy is one we should adopt not only for ourselves, but also for
9. Engage hearts and minds.
Effective learning is favoured by creating an affective, supportive climate
It is very important to praise the kids, to build up rapport, trust and
self-esteem. If this seems difficult to achieve, simply think of an old
saying ”You may forget what someone told you or taught you but you will
never forget how he or she made you feel.”
10. Children expect their teacher to have a sense of humour
Last but not least, the deep secret that ensures success in primary school
is a very simple one: remember to be children yourselves. A teacher who can
play and laugh along with the kids will win their hearts forever. Some fear
they will lose face or control of the class if they do it. It’s all a matter
of how you can teach the kids that learning can be fun but not only- it’s
also hard work.
In conclusion, getting to know the children, their way of thinking and the
way they learn is a must for primary school teachers. We may mot have learnt
how to deal with flying sandwiches, but we need to accept this:
Control is a myth. The only person you can control in class is YOU.
1. Phillips, Sarah, Young Learners, Oxford University Press, 1993
2. www.onestopenglish.com, Carol Reed webinar “Control or chaos? Managing
classes of primary children in a positive way”
for Learning English. Teachers' Influence in the Continuance of a Student's
Grup Şcolar Industrial Transporturi Căi Ferate - Craiova
success, acquisition of English, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation,
Working as a high school teacher, I have been observing the factors that
influence both students’ success and failure in their acquisition of
English. I have noticed that some students are successful at language
learning whilst others are not, although all my students are aware of the
importance of learning at least one foreign language nowadays. Student
motivation is rooted in students’ subjective experiences, especially those
connected to their willingness to engage in lessons and learning activities
and their reasons for doing so. Although English is not the language with
the largest number of native or “first” language speakers, it has become a
lingua franca. There is no doubt that English is and will remain a vital
linguistic tool for many businessmen, academics, tourists and citizens of
the world who wish to communicate easily across nationalities for many years
Like all other processes, teaching changes and develops continuously. One of
the most important things a teacher of English can give to a student is a
love of language – an appreciation of subtle nuances of meaning, for rhythm
in poetry, for the power of word. Teachers of English often say that a
student who really wants to learn will succeed whatever the circumstances in
which he/she studies. All teachers can think of situations in which certain
“motivated” students do significantly better than their classmates. Students
frequently succeed in what appear to be unfavourable conditions: they
succeed despite using methods which experts consider unsatisfactory. It
seems reasonable then to suggest that the motivation students bring to class
is the biggest single factor affecting their success.
Learners’ motivation has become more commonly recognized as perhaps the
major determining factor for successful learning in general, whether one is
a high school student pushing one’s way through the battery of required
courses needed to graduate, or an adult learner taking distance education
courses. In any learning setting, the dynamics of motivation will be
different. What will help a high school student sustain motivation may not
apply to an adult learner, for example. Similarly, what factors affect and
enhance learner motivation in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL)
setting will differ as well. Furthermore, motivation for EFL learners in a
middle school or high school class will differ from the experience of an EFL
It is accepted for most fields of learning that motivation is essential to
success: that we have to want to do something to succeed at it. Without such
motivation we will almost certainly fail to make the necessary effort. If
motivation is so important, therefore, it makes sense to try and develop our
understanding of it. Are all students motivated in the same way? What is the
teacher’s role in a student’s motivation? How can motivation be sustained?
At its most basic level, motivation is some kind of internal drive which
pushes someone to do things to achieve something. In discussions of
motivation an accepted distinction is made between extrinsic and intrinsic
motivation, that is motivation which comes from outside and from inside.
Extrinsic motivation is caused by any number of outside factors, for
example, the need to pass an exam, the hope of financial reward, or the
possibility of future travel.
Intrinsic motivation, by contrast, comes from within the individual. Thus a
person might be motivated by enjoyment of the learning process itself or by
a desire to make themselves feel better.
Most researchers and methodologists have come to the view that intrinsic
motivation is especially important for encouraging success. Even where the
original reason for taking up a language course, for example, is extrinsic,
the chances of success will be greatly enhanced if the students come to love
the learning process.
What is Student Motivation?
Student motivation naturally has to do with students' desire to participate
in the learning process. But it also concerns the reasons or goals that
underlie their involvement or noninvolvement in academic activities.
Although students may be equally motivated to perform a task, the sources of
their motivation may differ.
A student who is intrinsically motivated undertakes an activity "for its own
sake, for the enjoyment it provides, the learning it permits, or the
feelings of accomplishment it evokes". An extrinsically motivated student
performs "in order to obtain some reward or avoid some punishment external
to the activity itself", such as grades, stickers, or teacher approval.
Infants and young children appear to be propelled by curiosity, driven by an
intense need to explore, interact with, and make sense of their environment.
Unfortunately, as children grow, their passion for learning frequently seems
to shrink. Learning often becomes associated with drudgery instead of
delight. A large number of students leave school before graduating. Many
more are physically present in the classroom but largely mentally absent;
they fail to invest themselves fully in the experience of learning.
The motivation that brings students to the task of learning English can be
affected and influenced by the attitude of a number of people. It is worth
considering what and who these are, since they form part of the world around
students’ feeling engagement with the learning process.
• The society we live in: outside any classroom there are attitudes to
language learning and the English language in particular.
• Significant others: apart from the culture of the world around students,
their attitude to language learning will be greatly affected by the
influence of people who are close to them. If they are critical of the
subject or activity, the student’s own motivation may suffer. If they are
enthusiastic learners, however, they may take the student along with them.
• The teacher: clearly a major factor in the continuance of a student’s
motivation is the teacher.
• The method: it is vital that both teacher and students have some
confidence in the way teaching and learning take place.
What Factors Influence The Development Of Students' Motivation?
According to Jere Brophy (1987), motivation to learn is a competence
acquired "through general experience but stimulated most directly through
modeling, communication of expectations, and direct instruction or
socialization by significant others (especially parents and teachers)."
Children's home environment shapes the initial constellation of attitudes
they develop toward learning. When parents nurture their children's natural
curiosity about the world by welcoming their questions, encouraging
exploration, and familiarizing them with resources that can enlarge their
world, they are giving their children the message that learning is
worthwhile and frequently fun and satisfying.
When children are raised in a home that nurtures a sense of self-worth,
competence, autonomy, and self-efficacy, they will be more apt to accept the
risks inherent in learning. Conversely, when children do not view themselves
as basically competent and able, their freedom to engage in academically
challenging pursuits and capacity to tolerate and cope with failure are
Once children start school, they begin forming beliefs about their
school-related successes and failures. The sources to which children
attribute their successes (commonly effort, ability, luck, or level of task
difficulty) and failures (often lack of ability or lack of effort) have
important implications for how they approach and cope with learning
The desire to learn can come from many causes. Perhaps the students love the
subject or are simply interested to see what it is like. On the other hand,
they may have a practical reason for their study: they want to learn an
instrument so they may have a practical reason for their study: they want to
learn English so they can watch American TV or work with English people.
Famous research carried out in the second half of the twentieth century by
Gardner and Lambert suggested that students who felt most warmly about a
language and who wanted to integrate into the culture of its speakers were
more highly motivated than those who were only learning language as a means
to an end (e.g. getting a better job). In other words Integrative motivation
was more powerful than Instrumental motivation. But whatever kind of
motivation students have, it is clear that highly motivated students do
better than ones without any motivation at all.
Suggestions for teachers
Increasing and directing student motivation is one of a teacher’s
responsibilities, though we cannot be responsible for all of our students’
motivation. In the end it is up to them. However, there are three areas
where our behavior can directly influence our students’ continuing
• Goals and goal setting: motivation is closely bound up with a person’s
desire to achieve a goal.
• Learning environment: although we may not be able to choose our actual
classrooms, we can still do a lot about their physical appearance and the
emotional atmosphere of our lessons. Both of these can have a powerful
effect on the initial and continuing motivation of students.
• Interesting classes: if students are to continue to be intrinsically
motivated they clearly need to be interested both in the subject they are
studying and in the activities and topics they are presented with. We need
to provide them with a variety of subjects and exercises to keep them
engaged. The choice of material to take into class will be crucial too, but
even more important than this will be the ways in which it is used in the
In order to make the language learning process a more motivating experience
instructors need to put a great deal of thought into developing programs
which maintain student interest and have obtainable short term goals.
Teachers need to create interesting lessons in which the students’ attention
is gained. This can sometimes be accomplished by the use of teaching
strategies which are not often called upon by other teachers in mainstream
subject areas. Encouraging students to become more active participants in a
lesson can sometimes assist them to see a purpose for improving their
communication skills in the target language. Successful communication using
the target language should result in students feeling some sense of
One of the main tasks for teachers is to provoke interest and involvement in
the subject even when students are not initially interested in it. It is by
their choice of topic, activity and linguistic content that they may be able
to turn a class around. It is by their attitude to class participation,
their consciousness, their humour and their seriousness that they may
influence their students. It is by their behavior and enthusiasm that they
Teachers are not, however, ultimately responsible for their students’
motivation. They can only encourage by word and deed. Real motivation comes
from within each individual.
Motivation may be influenced by various external factors including
education, teachers, parents, peers, and classroom, which can enhance or
lower children’s motivation. In other words, it is possible to enhance
children’s motivation by creating an appropriate environment and using
proper teaching methods and materials. By stressing meaningful aspects of
learning tasks, encouraging pupils to have clear and specific goals,
promoting perceptions of autonomy, and giving activities that are
challenging but within their competence, children might be more
intrinsically motivated to learn English.
Our attempts to initiate and sustain our students’ motivation are absolutely
critical to their learning success, for as Alan Rogers writes, “motivation
…is as much a matter of concern for the teacher as it is for the learner; it
depends as much on the attitudes of the teacher as on the attitudes of the
students” (Rogers 1996: 66).
Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Pearson Education
Harmer, Jeremy. How to teach English. Pearson Education Limited 1998
Rogers, A. Teaching Adults. Open University Press 1996
Brophy, Jere. Motivating students to learn. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Tasks and Exercises in EFL Classes. Theoretical and Practical
by Cătălina Ecaterina Burlacu, Ionel Teodoreanu School, Iaşi
Key words: task, exercise, focus, authenticity, interaction patterns,
cognitive process, role of participants, freedom of choice
Teaching a foreign language
implies the use of a great variety of methodological devices, ranging from
the traditional drills of the audio-lingual method to the current
interactive activities proper to the communicative approach. Different in
many aspects, all these devices aim more or less at eliciting language from
the learner’s part. As any domain of research, EFL methodology has developed
its own terminology, including also concepts whose definition still poses
problems to the specialists, or which create confusion among EFL promoters
due to their misleading nature. Thus, “activity”, “task” and “exercise” are
only three terms frequently used for describing the same device of eliciting
learner language. But do they refer to the same thing? How do they differ
from each other? Wanting to clarify as much as possible some of the terms
encountered on a daily basis in EFL practice, my essay will focus on the
distinction between a task and an exercise. The essay will begin by
presenting the differences between the two terms function of various
aspects, whereas the second half will provide examples of tasks or exercises
and identify their features as such.
Tasks and exercises differ in many aspects, such as their focus, the role of
the participants, the way learning takes place, authenticity, and cognitive
processes involved. What they have in common is the purpose for which they
are used, namely learning a language and requiring learner language. What
they differ in is the way this purpose is to be attained.
First of all, tasks and exercises have a distinct focus. Thus, tasks are
activities that aim at meaning-focused language use, promoting communication
and message conveyance in context, whereas exercises are oriented towards
form-focused language use, resulting in displaying learner’s knowledge of
the target language and having a linguistic outcome. At this stage, it is
worth mentioning that even when carrying out a task (whose clear primary
goal is using language pragmatically), learners may get to focus also on
form and expose their knowledge of the linguistic system.
A second distinction between tasks and exercises refers to the roles of the
participants. In the case of tasks, learners are language users, taking part
in communicative activities similar to those encountered in real life, such
as making an airline reservation, asking for and giving directions,
accepting and refusing invitations, asking for help, filling in an
application form, taking part in an interview, etc. In this case, the
participants` primary focus is on communication through interaction with the
others and learning takes place incidentally, without consciously reflecting
upon it. When referring to exercises, the participants are learners focusing
consciously on a specific linguistic aspect of the target language and
learning takes place intentionally.
Another aspect which differentiates the two terms is
authenticity, that is the likeliness of the language activity to happen in
the real world. For example, the first activity below (World Class, M.
Harris, David Mower, 1997, 6th Grade) is an authentic task, taking into
account the daily necessity of carrying out similar conversations in real
life; also, in order to be authentic, the final product, the interaction
itself, should resemble to an authentic conversation carried to the market.
On the other hand, the second activity, which is obviously a language
exercise, lacks authenticity because what the learners have to do is only to
complete the sentences with certain items in questions and answers, activity
which definitely will not engage real-world language use. Moreover, for
completing the exercise, the learners have no choice over the language to be
used, as it happens in the case of tasks, where the language is selected by
the learners themselves according to a certain semantic context imposed by
the task. Besides that, the task itself offers some guidelines about what
linguistic forms to use in a context, but the real linguistic choices are
left to the learners. Also related to the authenticity of tasks, it should
be mentioned that, at first sight, some of them could seem artificial, but
the language elicited by the task may be related to real-life communication.
For example, although the situation proposed by a task asking two students
to describe two pictures could seem artificial, since in real-life
communication we are not very often asked to do it, the language elicited by
it, namely providing clear information about something, asking and answering
questions, is part of our everyday interactional exchanges.
Another example of an exercise is the one above (English
Scrapbook, 7th grade), focusing on a language aspect, namely connectors or
linking devices. In this case, the learners have to rewrite the sentences
using three given items: but, however and although. Like in the other
example, the learners have no option in terms of language use except for the
given items, nor are they engaged in any form of interaction; the activity
itself is not related to normal real-world communication, but it represents
an initial stage in language learning. I assume that beyond this stage of
controlled practice, free-practice tasks are going to be used in order to
develop communicative competence.
Besides the aspects mentioned so far, tasks and exercises differ also in
what they lead to. If exercises develop language knowledge and awareness,
tasks are clearly oriented towards developing proficiency by means of
interaction and communication. Obviously, exercises constitute a stage in
language learning, but if communicative competence is envisaged, then they
gradually should be replaced by tasks, that is more cognitively demanding
activities, implying processes such as selecting, classifying and evaluating
The following activity (English Scrapbook, 7th grade) has all the features
of a task since it focuses on meaning, interaction through pair-work and
oral language use; also, the learners have the freedom to choose the
language necessary to perform the task (how to formulate the questions, what
register to adopt, what questions to select); it resembles to an authentic
conversation (asking for information about people, interviewing), and
finally the interaction leads to a definite written product (the biography)
which proves that the task has been successfully carried out.
Here is another example of a task promoting communication
through pair-work, negotiation between the participants, authentic
interaction reflected in real-world situations (expressing wishes, agreeing
or disagreeing), selection of information, and leading to a final product –
building up full sentences expressing personal and other person’s wishes.
To sum up, we have seen so far that tasks and
exercises are different devices used in language learning and teaching. By
analyzing the examples provided above, we could clearly see that they differ
in many aspects, such as focus, degree of authenticity, interaction
patterns, cognitive processes involved, role of participants, degree of
freedom in choosing the language use, and the presence of a final outcome
proving the task completion. Although the exercises have a restrictive
linguistic focus, this does not turn them into less valuable resources in
language learning and teaching. Language exercises and communicative tasks
are interwoven in the process of language learning, providing the complete
background of a language, including both form and meaning, structures and
functions, language use and language usage.
Grammar in the
Communicative Language Class
by Oana-Elena Andone, Liceul
Key words: explicit grammar, implicit grammar, grammatical competence,
structure based task, focus on form
In an age of global communication it is only
natural that teachers of foreign languages should adopt a communicative
approach to teaching, with a focus on communicative competence and
communicative functions. However, communication is not possible with
vocabulary and listening, reading or writing skills only, without the
mastery of the system of rules that governs the language, in short what is
normally called grammar. For communication to be genuine the speakers must
be creative with language and have the ability to produce fairly accurate
utterances that express whatever they wish to convey. It is safe to say that
the deeper the grammar knowledge a speaker has, the more effectively he can
use the language for communication.
However, teachers are faced with the question
of how explicitly grammar should be taught or of how efficient the implicit
teaching of grammar is for the student to achieve genuine communication
skills. When selecting classroom tasks, educators must not abandon the final
goal of communication, therefore what they include as learning activities
must compel students to use language in authentic contexts, to convey real
meaning and, last but not least, to use accurate and complex structure.
Pennington (2002) coined the phrase “action
grammar” to describe his view of a communicative grammar class which “must
be interactive in nature and relative to specific discourse communicates and
their communicative practices.” A slightly different approach is offered by
Fotos (2002) who suggested that a grammar lesson should follow three parts:
explicit grammar instruction, communicative activities, and summary
activities. The class begins with the teacher providing explicit grammar
rules and explanation and continues with a large variety of communicative
activities that contain uses of the instructed form. At the end of the
lesson, in the summary activities section, students will focus on the
grammar form they have just studied and then perform communicatively. Fotos
strongly believes that explicit instruction will draw students’ attention to
form and will raise accuracy.
Explicit description of language refers to
whether the materials offered by the teacher provide learners with an
explanation of the grammar point or whether learners are required to
discover the rule themselves and develop their own explanations. Whether
explicit or not, grammar must be put to work immediately in communication.
Therefore tasks provide students with opportunities to produce the target
language and receive feedback on the productions. Through feedback the
students can notice the difference between the structure that they want to
produce and their actual productions, thus leading to accuracy. Structure
based tasks combine two goals- on the one hand there is the practice of
language, which is communicative because it is meaning-focused interaction,
and on the other hand learner awareness of language is enhanced.
Furthermore, Ellis (2002) suggests that when
grammar instruction is extensive and is sustained over a long period of
time, it contributes to the development of implicit knowledge and it
promotes accuracy in the use of difficult forms in the target language. He
also insists on the need for providing communicative opportunities that
contain instructed grammar forms and a combination of form-focused
instruction and meaningful communication. In a nutshell, students need
opportunities to encounter and produce the structures that were previously
introduced explicitly through the grammar lesson, or implicitly through
While Fotos and Ellis see in explicit grammar
the opportunity of promoting language awareness and accuracy, others
challenge the value of explicit grammar instruction. Krashen (cited in
Ellis, Fotos and Nassaji, 2007) argues against explicitness stating that
explicit grammatical knowledge about structures and rules for use may never
turn into implicit knowledge underlying unconscious language comprehension
and production. Thus his view is that the instruction of grammar alone may
not promote genuine language of knowledge.
The Latin “aurea mediocritas” that teachers
cannot go wrong with is focusing on form through process, as proposed by
Nassaji (Ellis, Fotos and Nassaji, 2007). Focusing on form through process
occurs in the context of natural communication when both the teacher and the
learner’s primary focus is on meaning. On the contrary, focus on form
through design is achieved through designing tasks which have deliberate
explicit focus on language structure. Moreover, focus on form may be
achieved within a communicative task by providing reactional feedback on
students’ errors. But whether educators adopt explicit or implicit grammar
teaching, focus on form is essential in language teaching. Without
grammatical competence one cannot achieve discourse competence, i.e. the
mastery of combining grammatical forms and meaning to achieve a unified
spoken or written text, and without discourse competence one cannot achieve
Ellis, Rod. (2002) “Methodological options in grammar teaching materials”,
in Hinkel, Eli and Fotos, Sandra (eds), New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching
in second Language Classroom. New Jersey, Publishers Mahwah;
Ellis, Rod, Fotos, Sandra and Nassaji, Hossein. (2007). Form Focused
Instruction and Teacher Education: Studies in Honour of Rod Ellis. Oxford,
Oxford University Press;
Fotos, Sandra. (2002) “Structure-based interactive tasks for the EFL grammar
learner”, in Hinkel, Eli and Fotos, Sandra (eds), New Perspectives on
Grammar Teaching in second Language Classroom. New Jersey, Publishers
Pennington, M.C. (2002) “Grammar and communication: New directions in theory
and practice”, in Hinkel, Eli and Fotos, Sandra (eds), New Perspectives on
Grammar Teaching in second Language Classroom. New Jersey, Publishers
Feedback from Students During Literature Classes. An Interactive Manner
by Delia Ilona Cristea, National College ”Elena Cuza”, Craiova
Key Words: lead-in, comprehension, analysis, suspense,
fight of influences, vulnerability, sarcasm, elegance, wit, temptation,
portrait, Faust, hedonism, Mephastophilis, validity of Art.
Understanding Dorian Gray is equal to accepting the value of Art
The first line of the chapter presents the inevitable meeting between Dorian
and Lord Henry. How would you define “fate”? Why is suspense used in a
story? ( the teacher gives the definition of the term) . How do you think
the two characters are going to react? Timing: both activities last no more
than 10 min.
(Suspense: The growing of excitement felt by an audience or individual while
awaiting the climax of a movie, book, play, etc. due mainly to its concern
for the welfare of a character they sympathize with or the anticipation of a
violent act. An example of suspense can be found in the short story "A Good
Man is Hard to Find" in the AP literature textbook. When the family is
systematically killed off one by one, the reader cannot help but have a
sense of sympathy for the poor unfortunate souls of the unlucky family
members thus adding to the suspense of the story.) (46)
At this stage the students are acquainted with the text :
”As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano, with his
back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann's "Forest
Scenes." "You must lend me these, Basil," he cried.... I am far too
frightened to call”.
Answer the following questions:
1.Dorian blushes at the sight of Lord Henry.How do you interpret that? Is it
mere shyness or already attraction?
2.The three man start talking about Lord Henry’s aunt and her charities, and
we learn that has got involved in these charities but has already failed to
go. How would you describe the young man in one sentence, given this
3.What do you think is the first impression Lord Henry has about Dorian? Is
it a favourable one? Give instances from the text.
Timing for all: 10 min.
ANALYSIS – FOCUS ON THE CHARACTERS
The text to be analysed is given below.
"Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like a good boy,"
said the painter, deep in his work and conscious only that a look had come
into the lad's face that he had never seen there before.... Youth! Youth!
There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!"
The fight of influences between Basil and Lord Henry is presented in four
stages in the excerpt. Find the references for each.
a) Basil asks Lord Henry to go...
b) Lord Henry’s art ...
c) Basil tries to warn Dorian...
d) Lord Henry warns Dorian himself ...
Then comment on the content of this influence, starting from: “Let your
impulses rule your life” and “We all have impulses”
Give one example from the text to illustrate the way in which Lord Henry
manages at the outset to change the young man’s principles of life
radically.Comment on Dorian’s vulnerability and find three reason why such a
Which of the following syllogism in Lord Henry’s monologue is false :
a) We must enjoy the pleasures of life to be happy
b) We can only enjoy them when we are young
c) We must be young to be happy
Some new elements about the text may be introduced at this stage. They are
related to the characters, inasmuch as the novel may be interpreted as an
autobiographical novel too. Dorian : represents the sort of young man
O.Wilde could fall in love with. He is also an image that the young Wilde
had of himself, an image with which he was narcistically in love. He is an
ideal of beauty and purity at the beginning of the book but will become a
degenarate soul. This degradation expresses Wilde's disgust with his own
sexual life. Lord Henry : he is Oscar wilde's dark side : the corruptor. So
he has what can corrupt : Wilde's charm and elegance, his intelligence, his
wit. Basil Halward : he is Wilde's conscience, good and and pure,
disinterested. He is also the artist in the story, not a poet and writer
like Wilde, but a painter.
Further notes: In contrast with the autobiography, an autobiographical novel
is a semi-fictional narrative based in part on the author's life experience,
but these experiences are often transposed onto a fictional character or
intermixed with fictional events. Examples include Thomas Wolfe's “Look
Homeward, Angel” and James Joyce's “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”.
Focus on the character of Dorian. His reaction at the sight of the portrait
“came on him like a revelation”as he understands fully the implications of
Lord Henry’s speech. Therefore, he wishes never to grow old and that the
portrait should grow old instead.What is the key sentence in the text and,
in fact, the turning point of the whole novel?
Timing: 15 min.
Do this while reading the following text:
"How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this
picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this
particular day of June.". . . "This is your doing, Harry," said the painter
bitterly.Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders."It is the real Dorian Gray--
that is all.""It is not.""If it is not, what have I to do with it?""You
should have gone away when I asked you, he muttered.”
Focus on the character of Basil Hallward. Students are given a written
assignment in which to portray this character’s traits mainly focusing on
his pain at the sight of the innevitable and obviously negative influence
Dorian has undergone in contact with Lord Henry’s sarcastic remarks of life.
Timing: 10 min.
Focus on the character of Lord Henry in opposition with the painter. At this
stage the teacher may want to offer another theoretical support as to the
symbolical interpretation of the characters.It is also a kind of background
for the understanding of the novel as a whole, at a stage where the students
have already become acquainted with the main characters ( Dorian, Lord Henry
and Basil ) and the major conflict (Dorian’s promise to give his soul to the
devil in return for perpetual youth ).
Timing; 10 min.
One school of thought presents to us an idea of life after death as either
heaven or hell. The concept is one that you grow to understand, one that you
create. However, Dorian Gray and Dr. Faustus are two literary characters
that shake hands with the devil early on. The two met their fate long before
they had sinned. According to The Faust legend, Dr. Faustus sells his soul
to the devil in return for twenty four years of service. While reading the
novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," it is obvious that he has followed a
similar path of signing a pact with the devil. He will receive eternal youth
as long as hecommits himself to sin. The stories of their lives intertwine
and each can be seen in a reflection of the other.
Dr. Faustus of The Faust Legend and Dorian Gray of the novel The Picture of
Dorian Gray have similar personalities in that both are naive and easily
tempted. Before Dorian’s pact with the devil, he was a young gentleman very
much respected for his good looks and childish innocence. Similarly, Dr.
Faustus was well respected for his reputable education. The two have gifts
that others admire, yet they are both dissatisfied with the way their lives
are and indiscreet. In their quests for happiness, they both become
vulnerable and open to the influence of others. The hedonist (The term
“hedonism” refers to the pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to
the pleasures of the senses), Lord Henry begins his influential work on
Dorian. He says, "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has
forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made
monstrous and unlawful" . Suddenly, a whole new world is open to Dorian, one
that had been previously inconceivable. These words made sense to him and so
he thought they must be true.
His gullibility blinds him to think critically about consequences of this
new life style. Dr. Faustus, who is also searching for a new way of life,
begins to practice and learn magic. He too, begins to see life differently.
Magic gives him power to have whatever he wishes and he never questions the
consequences. Both want pleasure, a feeling so far unknown; on the other
hand*, the two are not completely gullible. Both Dr. Faustus and Dorian Gray
question their actions, but the apprehension fades and both continue their
pact with the devil. There is also a parallel character of Lord Henry. Dr.
Faustus’s new influence becomes a devil named Mephistopheles/Mephastophilis.
"Later, Mephastophilis answers all of his [Dr. Faustus] questions about the
nature of the world" (47). While many characters are alike, the events of
both stories resemble each other.
Dr. Faustus and Dorian Gray begin to create turmoil wherever they go. In
Dorian’s first act of sin, he breaks the heart of a young girl, Sybil, and
this girl commits suicide. James Vane, Sybil’s brother vows revenge on
Dorian. "Don’t forget that you will have only one child to look after, and
believe me that if this man wrongs my sister, I will find out who he is,
track him down, and kill him like a dog. I swear it" (48). This vow of
revenge also occurs in Dr. Faustus’s case. On one of his travels, a knight
taunts Dr. Faustus’s magical powers and Dr. Faustus makes antlers sprout
from the knight’s head. The knight vows revenge. Both Dr. Faustus and Dorian
Gray cunningly escape the vows of revenge. After Dorian Gray commits himself
to sin, he receives a signature from the Devil. The beautiful portrait of
himself is altered. His face is no longer young and beautiful. The look on
his face changes. The evil look mockingly haunts him. Dr. Faustus also
receives a signature mark. "As soon as he does so, the words ‘Homo fuge,’
Latin for ‘O man, fly,’ appear branded on his arm" (49). Lord Henry,
Dorian’s evil influence, gives Dorian a little yellow book about a young man
who is also committed to sin. This book becomes his bible and Dorian reads
it repeatedly. Mephastophilis, Dr. Faustus’s influence, also gives Dr.
Faustus a book. This book contains spells which Dr. Faustus must learn and
follow, in the same way that Dorian follows the little yellow book. In
essence, the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, used The
Faust Legend 1619 as an inspiration for his novel. The similarities are too
evident to ignore. One begins to wonder why Wilde would use the legend as an
inspiration. Based on background information, Wilde was accused and found
guilty of sodomy in his late life. He was interested sexually in men during
a time when this thought was depraved.
In the novel, Dorian Gray himself has sexual relations with men. Generally
speaking, this action was unacceptable by societal standards and Wilde had
to come up with a defense for writing such a thing. As a result, The Faust
Legend gave an excuse for Wilde’s ideas and Dorian’s actions. Now it could
be justifiable, because it was a literary character that was dedicated to
committing sin. In other words, it’s not me; it’s the devil! And anyway,
what Wilde intends to demonstrate is the validity of Art, which is not
constrained by any barriers related to religion, morality, politics etc.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 1891. Ed. Donald L. Lawler.New
Bowlby, Rachel. "Promoting Dorian Gray”Shopping With Freud.” London:
Cervo, Nathan. "Wilde's Closet Self: A Solo at One Remove." Victorian
(1985 Spring): 17-19.
Hart , John E .” Art As Hero : The Picture of Dorian Gray .” Research
Studies. 46 (197$):
Blake, Robert W., ed. Reading, Writing and Interpreting Literature:
Pedagogy, Positions and Research. Schenectady, NY: New York State English
Council, 1989. [Johnson LB1049.95 .R44 1989]
Bogdan, Deanne. Re-educating the Imagination: Toward a Poetics, Politics,
and Pedagogy of Literary Engagement. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1992.
[PN70 .B6 1992]
Cahalan, James M. and David B. Downing, eds. Practicing Theory in
Introductory College Literature Courses. Urbana, IL: National Council of
Teachers of English, 1991. [PS25 .P7 1991]
Interactive English with Young Learners. Making Learning
Enjoyable and Memorable
by Lăcrimioara Nasui, “Mihai Eminescu” School,
Key words: motivation, interactive, young learners, warmers, mood
changers, fillers, games
Motivation is the thoughts and feelings we have which make us want to do
something, continue to want to do it and turn our wishes into action.
Motivation is very important in language learning. It helps make
learning successful and it needs to be both created and continued.
Among the factors that influence our motivation we can mention: the
usefulness of knowing the language well; our interest in the target
language culture; self-confidence; learner autonomy; encouragement and
support from others (teachers, family, peers, school, society, etc); our
interest in the learning process; etc.
How teachers can encourage greater motivation in their learners
►Set a personal example with your own behaviour as a teacher
►Create a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom
►Present interesting and achievable tasks
►Establish a good rapport with the class
►Increase the learners’ self-confidence with praise and encouragement
►Personalisation- the lessons should be relevant to the learners’ lives
Interactive activities that motivate learners
♦ Simon Says
It is a good warmer for revising parts of the body or instructions
before a lesson. Ask all the class to stand up. You give them
instructions which they only follow if you say “Simon says”, e.g. “Simon
says ‘Sit down’ ”. If they follow the instruction without “Simon says”,
e.g. “Touch your shoulders”, they are ‘out’ of the game. You can speed
up or make it more exciting. It can get quite frenetic, so it’s good for
warming up a sleepy class, but not so good if the class is very noisy.
They will just get more noisy!
♦ Line up
It is a good warmer for previewing the topic of the lesson or for
language revision. Ask students to line up according to when their
birthday is, to preview a lesson on how to say dates and practice ‘I was
born in 1998’ or ‘I was born on the 9th of July’. You can also ask them
to line up according to height for comparatives and superlatives, e.g.
‘John is taller than Maria’ or ‘Tom is the tallest in the class’. They
can then line up according to the number of letters in their name in
order to practice spelling names.
It is a good warmer for getting talking in English, class dynamics,
previewing the topic of the lesson. Get students to form two circles,
one inside the other one. Each circle should have the same number of
students. The outer one walks in one way, the inner one walks the other
way. When you clap your hands, students on the inside turn outwards to
talk to students on the outside (in pairs). You can do it 5 times or so,
each time giving them a different topic. The topics can range from ‘What
did u do last weekend?’, in order to practice Past Tense, to ‘What do
you think about keeping pets?’, to preview a lesson about pets.
Start with easy topics and move on to the subject of the lesson as the
students warm up! A good variation is to play music as the students walk
for a few seconds, then stop it.
♦ 2 true, 1 false
It is a good warmer for class dynamics or getting to know each other
better. You should demonstrate the activity with yourself first. Tell
students 3 things about yourself. Students have to say which is false.
Then pair them up to do the same. Give them a few minutes, then take
♦ Letter mix
It’s a good activity for getting brains working or for vocabulary
revision. Put the letters of a word on the board, all mixed up. Give
students a few minutes to work it out. You can start with something
easy, such as something they had the previous lesson, like UCBROADP (for
‘cupboard’); then give them something more difficult, depending on their
level, such as MSOEUTRALS (for ‘somersault’).
A variation is to give them a clue, e.g. the first one is something you
have in the kitchen; the second one is something an acrobat does.
♦ Five-minute writing storms
This activity is for an upper level and is excellent to change the mood
in the classroom or as a filler at the end of a lesson. Tell students
they have exactly 5 minutes to write about a given topic. Examples are:
‘A favourite relative’, ‘My favourite TV programme’, ‘My favourite
singer/actor’, etc. In order to motivate them even more, you should
start writing furiously yourself! They must know you are not going to
mark them for language mistakes, but for content. Take them in and give
♦ Kim’s game
This game is good for vocabulary revision or as a memory game. Put about
10-12 small objects on a tray and cover it with a cloth. Put the tray on
the table so that all the class can see it. Students are not allowed to
write at this point. Uncover the objects for 1 minute, then cover it
again. The aim is for students to remember as many objects as possible
and write them in their copybooks.
♦ 20 questions
It is a good game for question practice. A student chooses a place, a
famous person or an object. The rest of the class have to find out
who/what it is by asking a maximum of 20 yes/no questions. Make it more
competitive by dividing the class into teams.
♦ Biting your tail
This activity is good for vocabulary revision, for all levels. Start
with a word that everyone knows like ‘elephant’. The next person has to
give a word beginning with the last letter of that word, e.g. ‘train’,
and so on, ‘number’, ‘rabbit’, etc. you can’t repeat words. If you take
longer than 10 seconds, you are ‘out’. To make this activity more
challenging, they have to make all words belong to one category, e.g.
‘family’, ‘fruit’, ‘furniture’, ‘clothes’, etc.
All those warmers, mood changers, fillers and games keep students
motivated and make learning enjoyable and memorable. When learners are
enjoying themselves, they seem to pick up new words and other language
items quickly and easily. You will be amazed at how fast the language
will really ‘stick’ to them!
1. TKT Course (Teaching Knowledge Test), Mary Spratt, Alan Pulverness,
Melanie Williams; Cambridge 2005
2. TKT Glossary, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, Cambridge
3. The Practice of English Language Teaching (3rd edition), Jeremy
4. Steps to Success. A starter pack for newly qualified teachers, Sue
Leather, British Council 2007
5. Teaching English to Children, Wendy A. Scott & Lisbeth H. Ytreberg,
New Trends in Teaching Vocabulary. Affective
and Cognitive Factors
by Ioana Constantinescu
School nr. 139 “Mircea Santimbreanu”, Bucuresti
Key words: personality, interdisciplinary, motivation,
global education, communicative competence, mastery learning, quality of
instruction, personalized system of instruction.
Throughout the history of language teaching, theories and
methods have gone through a recurring cycle: development, arbitrary
enforcement, a brief period of enthusiasm and rejection. We cannot and we
should not ignore the achievements of the past. To do so would severely
limit our view of current trends. Many theories and favored methods at the
turn of the century are still in the use today. We still utilize some facets
of the audio-lingual method with its emphasis on structural linguistics and
behaviorist psychology. Dialogues are shorter and more lifelike. Learners
comprehend the meaning of all utterances through pictures, gestures,
dramatization. Utterances are usually contextualized.
A student response that is rewarded by the teacher is reinforced and
therefore learned, while negative teacher reaction on feedback is generally
detrimental to learning.
Some key words and phrases, like motivation, personality, interdisciplinary,
and cultural are regaining respectability. Let us take a brief look at
several of these words and phrases that appear frequently in learning or
teaching materials, bearing in mind that the line of demarcation between
affective and cognitive factors is no longer clear-cut. Factors in both
domains in¬teract, depending on the surrounding "world" and on in¬herent
cultural structures within the individual.
Motivation is no longer thought of only as integrative or instrumental. It
is again considered a key to learning, created, fostered, and maintained by
the enthusiastic, sensi¬tive, well-prepared classroom teacher at every stage
of the learning process, as he or she meets the students' basic needs. The
universal needs identified by the psychologist Maslow are: survival, (and
security), belonging, identity, self-esteem, and self-actualization.
Procedures that can be¬come a part of every lesson and which will help
students de¬velop these positive affective feelings include:
(a) relating the presentation and practice of any communicative or
lin¬guistic item or the reading and writing of any "text" to their native
language and culture and to their probable experience in their native land
or their new environment; (b) encourag¬ing them to speak of their native
culture in English or in their native tongue, where feasible;
(c) making sure that they com¬prehend every dialogue utterance, the gist of
the reading passage, instructions for tasks and activities, and cultural
allusions in a listening or reading passage;
(d) giving them extensive practice in using verbal or—if necessary—non¬verbal
alternatives for communicative expressions, struc¬tures, or language items;
(e) rotating their participation in groups according to their academic needs
or their evolving interests;
(f) engaging them in paired practice activities for a good part of each
(g) correcting important errors tact¬fully by rephrasing a question,
expanding an answer, or by merely saying, "Listen," and giving the correct
(i) announcing all tests in advance and indicating clearly what the content
of the test may include.
( j) showing concern for school or community problems of individuals;
(k) making it possible for them to enjoy many small successes and a feeling
that they are making definite—even if slow—pro¬gress toward their goals.
Every lesson step, every class or out-of-class task or activity, can be
designed to enhance motivation.
The importance of personality has gained currency in the last decade. While
the neo-behaviorist psychologists still agree that language is a form of
behavior, they see speech as a mediated response to stimuli—as an activity
that directs and transforms the behavioral function and restructures the
cog¬nitive processes. Personality influences speech, which in turn
influences personality. Nuttin (1968)¹ postulated that personality is a mode
of functioning involving the ego and the world. It is an open-ended system
that relates an indi¬vidual's internal structure (affective, verbal,
perceptive, cognitive) to the outside environment—physical, social, and
cultural. Verbal communication is an expression of the indi¬vidual's
internal and external personality.
Teaching approaches emphasize the central role of lan¬guage as a social
phenomenon. Students are engaged in realistic communicative activities that
make use of the tenta¬tive type of language that leads to more harmonious
interper¬sonal relationships in social situations.
The above remarks bring us to an emerging study termed global education.
This concept transcends that of cultural pluralism, which includes a
sensitive perception and appreciation of cultures beyond that of the target
language. Global education, already a discipline in its own right in several
universities, is interdisciplinary, embracing several universal goals:
(a) to help students under¬stand the ways of thinking, the values, and the
problems of oilier peoples; i.e., to develop cross-cultural awareness;
(b) enable students to analyze and suggest measures for using and sharing
the earth's resources;
(c) to develop a spirit of hip with other peoples, since humanity shares a
common I mure;
(d) to make students aware of the choices they can make in order to consider
themselves citizens of the world.
It is our responsibility to prepare our learners to cope not only with ili<
world's universal problems and "behaviors" but with its many ethnic and
Communicative competence is the principal objective in the majority of
second- language teaching programs. The linguistic competence demanded in
the past asked for the mastery of features of pronunciation, grammar,
lexicon and culture. Communicative competence asks that teachers be
satisfied with a reasonable knowledge of those features. It considers it
imperative, however, that students learn to use language appropriately in
the social situation in which the speech act takes place. Presuppositions
are the "real world" experiences that people engaging in a conversation
should have shared—or at least learned about—if full comprehension of their
meaning is to occur. Unless the context and the situation are crystal clear
(really unambiguous), it may be wiser to avoid time-wasting guessing games
in which students hear only "What do you think it is?" followed by a
one-word answer and the teacher's "No, it's not." If a presupposition is
important for comprehension and for continuing the conversation, the teacher
should explain it immediately, returning to it in greater depth when
necessary. By the same token, para-linguistic features of language behavior,
such as unarticulated sounds and hesitation or transitional words, are part
of normal conversation and should be used and practiced in role plays,
paired practice, and other relevant activities.
Literature is being recommended for early levels of language learning. Some
will object, but I approve whole¬heartedly. Learning simple poems, plays,
and simplified ver¬sions of classics in English gives students a much-needed
feeling of achievement.
The term interdisciplinary has several meanings, each of which is important:
(a) our theoretical background for lan¬guage teaching and learning should
include a knowledge of linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics,
semantics, communication theory, and didactics;
(b) in order to enhance motivation, the teacher of English as a foreign or
second lan¬guage should use concepts, terms, and techniques from every area
in the curriculum the learners are studying. This will give students an
opportunity to talk, ask, and write about topics with which they have some
familiarity. An inter¬disciplinary approach is particularly important in the
English as a second language situation, enabling language learners to get
into the mainstream of the school and to function on a par with their
classmates as quickly as possible.
Until a few years ago, language acquisition and language learning were used
interchangeably. In studies by Krashen (1981) , learning is used to describe
what the students learn in a formal school situation and acquisition refers
to what a person learns unconsciously from the varied stimuli he receives
from the world around him. Assuming that we do succeed in identifying all
possible learning strategies, any teacher should find his own style and way
to individualize instruction, use many media, integrate the language
laboratory effectively with classroom work, grade the material, and
encourage autonomous learning.
One of the most powerful ideas shaping educational views and practices in
recent years is mastery learning .It provides successful and rewarding
learning experiences to almost all the students, it ensures that all or
almost all students can master what they are taught. This idea is very old,
it was the concern of teachers from the oldest times,being stressed by
Comenius in the 17th century, by Pestalozzi in the 18th century, by Herbert
in the 19th century. What’s new in our century? The quality of instruction
is defined in terms of the degree to which the presentation, explanation and
ordering of the learning task’s elements reached the optimum level for each
learner. School learning is a function of five elements: the time allowed,
perseverance, aptitude quality of instruction and ability to understand
instruction. The teacher teaches each unit using group-based methods and
supplements this instruction with feedback procedures.
“ The world, our countries, our communities will survive with faulty
pronunciation and less than perfect grammar, but can we be sure they will
continue to survive without real communication, without a spirit of
community, indeed without real communion among people? Part of the answer
lies in the hands of everyone in our profession. Seeking the truth to that
answer is a challenge we cannot, dare not refuse to accept.”
In choosing the most suitable sets of practical activities, I paid attention
to the major factors which can influence student success in school learning.
John B.Carroll first began to shape the concept of school learning.
Essentially, this was a conceptual paradigm which pointed out the major
factors influenc¬ing student success in school learning and indicated how
these factors interacted. He found out that a student's apti¬tude for a
foreign language predicted not only the level he would reach in a given
time, but also the amount of time he would require to reach a certain level.
This model assumed that, under typical school learning conditions, the time
spent and the time needed were functions of certain characteristics of the
individual and his instruction. The quality of instruction was defined in
terms of the degree to which the presentation ,explanation and ordering of
the learning task’s elements reached the optimum level for each learner.The
ability to understand the instruction represented the student's ability to
generally benefit from the instruction and was loosely identified with
general intelligence. The model proposed that the quality of the student's
instruction and his ability to understand it inter¬acted to extend the time
he needed for task mastery beyond that normally required by his aptitude for
the task. If both the quali¬ty of his instruction and his ability to
understand it were high, then he required little or no additional learning
time. The Carroll model can be summarized as follows:
4.Quality of Instruction;
5.Ability to Understand instruction
A clear conclusion can be drawn out of Carroll's model: School learning is a
function of five elements:
1) The time needed for performing a learning task differs from one student
to another, calling for the use of individualised strategies.
2) The time allowed is the time students have at their disposal usually
shorter than the time needed.
3) The student’s perseverance, an element measurable and easy to check, in
but not out of school.
4) The quality of instruction, depending only on the teacher, on his
personality, on his training, on the strategy used etc.
5) The student's capacity to understand instruction, depending mainly on the
material to be taught (in order not to omit anything) and the student's
aptitudes and interest.
It was B.S.Bloom¹ who transformed Carroll's conceptual model into an:
effective working model for learning. Bloom argued that if students were
normally distributed with respect to aptitude for a subject and if they were
provided instruction in terms of quality and learning time, then achievement
at the completion of the course would be normally distributed. Furthermore,
the relationship between aptitude and achievement would be high.
The strategy assumed that quality of instruction could be de¬fined in terms
a) the clarity and appropriateness of the instructional cues for each
b) the amount of active participation in and practice of the learning
allowed each student;
c) the amount and variety of reinforcements available to each learner.
For the purposes mentioned above the following correctives were used:
- the course was broken into smaller units;
- brief diagnostic - progress tests were constructed to determine which of
the unit's tasks the student had or had not mastered and what he had to do
to complete his unit learning;
- formative tests were administered at the end of each learning unit and
this helped the students pace their learning;
- for students who had thoroughly mastered the unity formative tests
reinforced their learning and assured them that their learning approach and
study habits were adequate;
- for students who had failed to master a given unit, the tests had to
pinpoint their particular learning difficulties;
- the formative tests, having been diagnostic tests, had been marked mastery
1. A. D. Cohen, E.Macaro, Language learner strategies, Oxford, 2007
2. Schmitt Norbert,McCarthy Michael, Vocabulary description, acquisition and
pedagogy, Cambridge University Press ,1997
3. Lakoff G.,Johnson M, Metaphors we live by, University of Chicago
4. Harmer Jeremy, The practice of English Language Teaching, Oxford
5. Ellis,R, SLA Research and Language Teaching, Oxford University Press 1997
6. Newton, Jonathan 'Options for vocabulary learning through communication
tasks' ELT Journal Vol55/1 Jan 2001
7. Thornbury, Scott How to Teach Vocabulary ,Longman 2002
8. McCarten, Jeanne, Teaching Vocabulary, Cambridge University Press, 2007
Students' Language and Culture Awareness
by Irina Oltica Creţu, School nr. 13, Botoşani
words: the relationship between language awareness and foreign language
development, preparing, planning and reflecting stages, culture and language
activities, linguistically aware teacher
and culture awareness plays a relevant role in the process of learning a
foreign language and it should not be ignored by teachers or learners,
what¬ever the learning level.
Language awareness is a methodology with which to explore language and
language use and their connections with classroom practice. It provides a
divergent, challenging and destabilizing way to approaching language.
(Wright and Bolitho, Language awareness: a missing link in language teacher
education?, 1993, p. 299) Trainers should bear this in mind and support
parti¬cipants in times of doubt, difficulty, conflict. Trainers have to
recognize the effects of destabilization and address the process as the
central part of the course they are involved in.
Language and culture awareness is associated with an educational movement
meant to make the students in schools more conscious of the nature of
language and culture and their role in human life. Increased reflection on
language by student and teacher leads to im¬proved language use and better
overall education. The direction of this relationship is seen from awareness
to develop¬ment in macro-human terms. In contrast, macro-human development
has an influence on the aware¬ness that learners have of language
independently of reflection on lan¬guage. These are two complementary views
of language awareness. When studying the relationship between language
awareness and foreign language development, Howard Nicholas (1987,p. 90)
organizes his research around five claims:
1. Foreign language development can be distinguished from first lan¬guage
development by the presence in the second language learners of awareness of
the lexico-grammatical level of language organiza¬tion.
2. Awareness of the lexico-grammatical level of language organization is
unconscious in children under age seven and potentially conscious in
children, adolescents, adults.
3. In both younger and older foreign language learners, constraints imposed
by interaction can be made conscious.
4. Adult foreign language development can be distinguished from child
foreign language development by the emergence in adults of conscious pragma-linguistic
awareness. This leads to the mani¬pulation of discourse as a means of
5. The emergence of pragma-linguistic awareness enables instruction about
morpho-syntax to profitably complement communicative instruction.
"Learners could be trained to use task-specific strategies to enhance their
performance. Teachers have the important role in encouraging children to
reflect on the process of the learning they do, in preference to
concentra¬ting solely on the product of learning. This is achieved within
three stages: preparing, planning and reflecting." (Kennedy and Jarvis,
1991, Ideas and Issues in Primary ELT, p. 127)
In the first stage teachers can explain what the goals of the exercise are
and how they relate to previous work. Teachers can support their learners in
the planning stage by teaching the appropriate strategies and language
required for different task types. After completing the task, the
effectiveness of different kinds of strategies might be discussed and
modelled. Modelling is more than demonstration and more 'show and copy'. It
should represent an attempt to foster a transi¬tion for the child from
control and direction to self-regulation. Successful teachers used and
demonstrated learning strategies to their pupils in their methodology.
Developing this kind of meta-cognitive awareness takes time. It is important
that teachers of young learners ensure that their pupils understand the
specification of the task and begin to learn strategies required to
negotiate meaning in English for:
• providing feedback to show they have understood something;
• indicating that they do not understand something;
• asking questions to clarify misunderstandings;
• checking details when a message is inadequate.
Teachers might train their older learners to work independently when
following written instructions. Learners will be then supported in
understan¬ding, instructions which ask them to sort (classify, put things in
order, match, say which is important). In the final stage the learners could
be encouraged to reflect on the learning that they did in their group. This
could be achieved through tape-re¬cording, learner diaries, group or
If we accept the need to develop the students' language awareness in the
foreign language classroom, some common pitfalls must be avoided, such as:
• the frequent lack of a clear, previously defined objective for aware¬ness
• the induction of language awareness activities to tasks aimed at
in¬creasing knowledge of the formal properties of language;
• the low degree of initiative students are usually allowed to have and the
high degree of control the teacher exerts by taking the central role
(explaining, exemplifying, describing language properties or as¬king
• the avoidance of the mother tongue, often resulting in either
over¬simplification procedures on the part of the teacher or compre¬hension
problems on the part of students;
• the tendency to emphasize individual work and teacher directed
interaction." (Vieira, Language awareness and language lear¬ning, 1991, p.
The process of awareness raising is seen as being a gradual one. Attitudes
and beliefs change slowly. Therefore, language and culture awareness is
concerned with behavioral changes of attitudes, greater insight, these ones
being the foundations for future courses of action.(Wright and Bolitho,
1993, p. 298) The outcomes can be restated as broad objectives to be
attained step by step over a period of time. Language and culture awareness
activities are designed to contribute to this process. "We attempt to
realize these processes through tasks and activities that are characterized
by the following key features "(Wright and Bolitho, 1993, p. 298):
1. Talking about language is valuable. It can increase a trainee's
2. Language awareness has:
• a cognitive dimension (it encourages thinking at various levels of various
• an affective dimension (it engages and evolves attitudes and va¬lues)
3. Language awareness involves:
• the left brain (it is logical and rational);
• the right brain (it involves intuition and the unexpected).
4. Language awareness work is:
• functional/utilitarian (it has obvious practical relevance).
5. Through involvement in language awareness work, we enable
teachers/trainees to become autonomous and robust explorers of language,
capable of maintaining a spirit of honest and open in¬quirer long after the
course ends. Awareness raising helps trainee participants to ask questions
about language, the ones that enable them to be effective teachers and to
develop their analytical powers.
2.7. Competences of linguistically aware teacher
"A linguistically aware teacher will be able to accomplish various tasks:
preparing lessons, evaluating, adapting and writing materials,
unders¬tanding, interpreting and designing a syllabus or curriculum,
testing, assessing the learners' performance, contributing to English
language work across the curriculum." (Wright and Bolitho, 1993, p.
297)Communicative teaching depends on a higher level of language aware¬ness
in teacher due to the richness and complexity of a communicative view. A
lack of awareness of language manifests itself at classroom level when a
teacher is unable to identify and compensate for shortcomings in a course
book or he is caught out by the learners' questions on the language. In
these situations the teacher needs to draw upon the learners' linguistic
knowledge and provide the necessary expertise to help the learners overcome
difficulties. In Edge's view ( Edge, J., Applying linguistics in English
language teacher training, 1988 - apud Wright and Bolitho, 1993, p. 297),
the three competences which an English teacher needs are:
• the language user
• the language analyst
• the language teacher.
Edge's definition allows the teacher to be approached through the user
and/or the analyst and the analyst to be approached through the teacher and/
or the user. None of the competences is seen as predominant.
1. Allwright D & Bailey KM, Focus on the language classroom: an introduction
to classroom research for language teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University
2. Bolitho, Rod and Tomlinson, Brian, Discover English, Macmillan ELT,2002
3. Brooks N, Culture in the classroom. In JM Valdes (ed) Culture bound:
bridging the cultural gap in language teaching, Cambridge University Press,
1986, pp 123–128.
4. Crystal David, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, Cam¬bridge
University Press, 1987.
5. Cuniţa Alexandra, Janeta Drăghiescu, Ecaterina Popa and Dumitru Dorobăţ,
Predarea şi învăţarea limbilor străine în România în perspectiva europeană,
6. Duranti, Alessandro, Linguistic Anthropology, Cambridge University
7. Ellis, Rod, The Study of the Second Language Acquisition, Oxford
University Press, 1994.
8. Emmitt M & Pollock J, Language and learning: an introduction for teaching
(2nded), Oxford University Press, 1991
9. Goodluck, Helen, Language Acquisition, A Linguistic Introduction, H.G.,
10. Hatch, Evelyn, Discourse and Language Education, Cambridge University
11. Hantrais L ,The undergraduate’s guide to studying languages, London:
Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, 1989
12. Harmer, Jeremy, The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman, 1991
13. Hill, A. David, Visual Impact. Creative Language through Pictures
Longman Group UK Limited, 1990.
14. Krashen D. Stephen, Second Language Acquisition and Second Language
Learning, Prentice Hall International UK Ltd., 1988
15. Maley A ,XANADU – ‘A miracle of rare device’: the teaching of English in
China. In JM Valdes (ed) Culture bound: bridging the cultural gap in
language teaching, Cambridge University Press,1986, pp 102–111.
16. Murray DM , The great walls of China, Today’s Education,1982, vol 71, pp
17. Nicholas, Howard, Language Awareness and Language Acquisi¬tion, Edward
Arnold, London, 1987
18. Nunan, David, Collaborative Language Learning and Teaching, Cambridge
University Press, 1992.
19. Ur, Penny, A Course in language teaching, Cambridge University Press,
20. Valdes JM , Culture bound: bridging the cultural gap in language
teaching, Cambridge University Press, 1986.
21. Wright, Tony and Rod Bolitho, Language Awareness: a Missing Link in
Language Teacher Education?, ELT Journal, 4 (1993). 292 - 302.
1. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com- Franz Bioanthropology and Modern Life
2. http://www.jstor.org/stable/972203 - Reviewed work(s): The Archaeology
and Pottery of Nazca, Peru: Alfred L. Kroeber's 1926 Expedition by Alfred L.
Kroeber; Donald Collier; Patrick H. Carmichael
-Theories of Development by Piaget and Vygotski, January 28, 2009 article by
Dealing with Students’ Anxiety
During English Classes
by Cătălina Dumbrăvanu, “Ştefan Luchian” High
Key words: anxiety, apprehension,
I have been teaching English for
eight years now, and I am still fascinated by my students’ reactions when it
comes to facing some situations or activities in the English class. I have
always wondered what makes them so insecure and introverted.
I finally found the answer while reading Amy B. M. Tsui’s book, Classroom
interaction, a book which raises plenty of problems that teachers face when
communicating with their students. I would like to share one of her ideas
with you, the other teachers and colleagues of mine, with the sincere hope
that finding the problems will lead to solving them, too. In chapter 4, page
87, she says: “…much of students’ reluctance to participate in classroom
interaction has to do with apprehension, fear, nervousness and worry. This
is hardly surprising since the classroom is a place where there is unequal
power relationship between the teacher and the students; this is bound to
generate anxiety. Classroom anxiety is a phenomenon that is found in all
Anxiety is indeed an element that is often met in class activities. We
cannot make it disappear, but we can diminish it. As a teacher, I deal with
anxiety every day and in all my classes.
In my first year of teaching, I did something unforgivable: after I had got
to know my students better, I tried to work with the best in the class so
that I can “save” my lessons. And I did save them. But at the other
students’ expense; finally, I realized that what I was doing was wrong:
instead of reducing the difference between the lower-level students and the
higher-level ones, I was emphasizing it.
It was then that I realized that there is no such thing as a unitary class;
so I tried to involve the other students more than the good ones. I was even
more surprised to find out that I was facing two problems: one was the
lower-level students’ lack of response because of their obvious anxiety, and
the other problem was the higher-level students’ loss of interest; they were
always complaining that the class was boring, giving me the uncomfortable
feeling that I should be moving faster.
There are some steps that a teacher can follow in order to diminish obvious
anxiety, such as:
1. Discuss the problem honestly with students. The must make the best of the
situation, they have to be patient with each other and help each other. I
made sure that the less advanced students were not made to feel ashamed of
their levels and assured the advanced students that I would give them more
difficult assignments, so that they would be bored as little as possible.
Each teacher should appeal to every student’s good will; if students feel
they are nor reaching teacher’s expectations of good behavior, they will
probably feel somewhat ashamed and will try harder to live up to teacher’s
2. The next thing that should be done in a multi-level class is to train the
more advanced students to hold back their answers and give the others the
chance to speak. I say, for example:” Let someone else try to answer for a
change, Mihai”. This gives others the opportunity to speak while the
advanced students are made sure that the teacher realizes they know the
answer. There are of course some other methods for dealing with such
enthusiasm, such as:
• Laying your hand on the student’s shoulder or making a facial expression
or gesture which might indicate that you want the student to stay quiet.
• Having the student write the answers on paper to turn in to you to check
after the class
• Having the student become the “teacher” and “ask” the questions.
3. Another thing that helps diminish anxiety in the classroom is keeping on
track. The more advanced students may try to overwhelm the other students
with academic details which are irrelevant (such as, “what is the origin of
that word”?). While these details may be interesting to the students, they
are not the focus of the lesson and may create a wide range of anxiety.
Sometimes it is a slower student who gets the teacher on track because
he/she needs to present some basic structures for the benefit of the lower
student while the rest of the class waits for him/her to finally get it. One
simple solution would be to give the student extra English classes outside
the class itself.
4. The teacher should get the weaker students to participate more because
this way they get used to the atmosphere in the class, they become more
relaxed and thus their input would finally be according to their teacher’s
5. But one of the most difficult parts that a teacher should do is to assign
different individual tasks to different levels of students; this can be
helpful to them, so long as the slower students are not made to feel
“stupid”; they should be equally praised for their work, even if it less
6. As far as the strong students are concerned, they should be used in the
teacher’s advantage, such as in pair work and group work. Pair work is one
of the best techniques teachers can use to help nurture all levels of
students. It is also easier to control who interacts with whom and how much
speaking time is required from each participant. Strong students can be
paired together with weak students, and each pair can be given a task of
difficulty appropriate to their level. The weaker student can work on more
basic tasks, while stronger ones can be more creative in their language
As a conclusion to all these solutions, I must admit that these are very
important elements that should be taken into account when dealing with
students’ anxiety. Multi level classes are a reality and as teachers, we
must do our best to produce the expected output from our students. I know
for a fact that these problems can be solved with hard work and a lot of
Let Us Teach Students How to Write Creatively
Alina Ianeţ, “Nicolae Titulescu” National College- Pucioasa, Dambovita
Keywords: - imagination, creativity, creative writing activities,
creative writing using comics; collaborative stories; showing vs.
Basic concepts of creative writing
Examples of creating writing activities
Tying It All Together
Students should keep in mind that they can apply “creative writing” to
anything, from their imagination, to their everyday life. Teachers have
a very important role in helping their students develop and think
Creative writing ideas come from everywhere. "I have nothing to write
about." How many times have students heard that come out of their mouth?
I've said it to myself, many times. That is simply not true. If anything
has made them stop and say, "Oh, that's kind of cool," they have
something to write about. If they've ever watched the world around and
wondered why people do the things they do, or events happened the way
they did, then they have something to write about. If they’ve ever had a
birthday party, been to a school dance or even just gotten up this
morning, they have something to write about. The best way for a writer
to get creative writing ideas is to say "What if…" Let's try it. What if
someone found an old map in his attic that led to a treasure? Of course,
he would have to go find the treasure, right? Well, if he didn't, it
wouldn't be much fun. So, he packs up his suitcase, tells his friends
and family good-bye, and heads out to find this treasure. What if he has
to travel through some dangerous territory, like, an enchanted forest,
or a mountain filled with trolls? What if he keeps getting sidetracked
on his quest? Maybe he meets people who need his help.
Starting to get the idea? Teachers should apply this to anything, from
students’ imagination, to their everyday life. What if they woke up one
morning and their parents were different people? What if they got a 10
on that maths test they’ve been sweating over? Teacher should try it by
looking around and asking "What if…"
They might have a few creative writing ideas floating around. "What’s
next?’ teacher asks. Now the fun starts. Now they write. It sounds easy
enough. This is the time where they want to get as many creative writing
ideas on paper as they can. They should let themselves go, and have fun
with it. Writing should make them feel like they're slipping into a
special place, a place they have created.
Here is a quick list of a few creative writing prompts just to get their
imagination going: someone finds a jewel-encrusted box; .their main
character wakes up to find himself in a completely different place from
where he fell asleep; their character is afraid of something. What is
it? How does he confront it? / Their character is being chased and steps
in a mysterious puddle, or makes a wrong turn and ends up in a dead end,
or is rescued by someone she does not like. / their character is fishing
and catches something interesting./ their character sees a shimmering
light through the trees./ the sky changes colour./ a secret room is
found./ a path branches off in three different directions and your
character has no idea where to go./ a laughing spell goes terribly
These could be used to help develop their characters, or start a
completely new story. They don't have to do all of these; they don't
have to do any of these, but the more they practise writing the better
they get. They can choose one that appeals to them and see where it is
going to happen.
Now that they have covered some ways to get creative writing ideas, it's
time they get into the nitty-gritty of writing. The teacher is going to
explain a few of the basic concepts of creative writing and give them
some examples of how each one works.
Basic concepts of creative writing
Writing their rough draft
The whole point of the first draft is to get their ideas on paper.
There's time to worry about commas, spelling and all that stuff later.
Many elementary schools focus way too much on the basic mechanics of
writing (the proper grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence
structure they need), but they forget to teach the application of those
skills. In other words, they don't teach students how to tell a good
story. How to make their words important enough that someone would want
to read them. Having good mechanics is useless if they’re not writing
anything interesting. So here are a few pointers to get them started.
Characters are the heart of any story. Many writers start with an idea
for a character and then ask "What if" questions to build a story around
them. Characters can usually be broken into three categories. The
protagonists (good guys); the antagonists, the people who stir up all
the trouble in the story (bad guys); and finally, the minor characters,
the ones who help move the story along, but who are less developed than
the main characters. The student, as the writer, wants to find out as
much about these people as he/she can, even the minor ones. So here are
a few questions to ask them when they're thinking about their main
characters: “Is this person male or female?”, “What is his/her name?”
Students would be surprised at how something as simple as a name will
make them more real. “How old is he/she?”, “What does he/she look
like?”. The teacher could make a list of hair colour, eye colour,
details like that. When they are writing their story, they don't want to
just write down a list to describe their character's appearance. “What
is his/her job?” Or, “What chores does he/she have to do?”/ “Where does
he/she live?”/ ‘What clothes does he/she wear?”/“How does their
character view him/her?”, “Pretty, smart, artistic, weak, something
else?”, “Who are his/her friends?”, “What does their character want?”
These questions will most affect the plot of their story. Their job as
the author is to keep their characters from getting what they want for
as long as possible, then teachers either help them get it in the end,
or throw some other kind of twist in there – maybe they thought they
wanted one thing, when they actually wanted something else entirely.
It's all up to them. In this world, they are the boss. Without a goal,
there is no story to tell, so students shouldn’t give their characters
resolution of the goal until their story is truly ending.
“What are some things in his/her past that effect who he/she is today?”
This is something else that might affect students’ story dramatically. A
person's history is part of what motivates him, so teachers should give
this some thought.
Plot is the vehicle that moves their story along. Their job as the
writer is to get their character stuck in a situation, get her more
stuck, throw impossible obstacles in her way, and then when it all seems
hopeless, show her a way out, and, if you're so inclined, hand her a
The pace of the story
Pacing is how fast or slowly the story moves. They don't want the story
to be boring, but they don't want non-stop action without any room to
breathe. They should compare it to running on a track. If they sprint
around the track quickly, they're going to wear themselves out; if they
go too slowly, they may never get finished. Students want to keep a nice
steady pace, fast enough to keep people interested, but slow enough so
as not to wear themselves out. Most stories vary between three speeds,
the slower beginning where they 're conserving their energy, then the
pace picks up as the action comes in, then it's up and down hill for a
while, with a few slower moments in between when the characters can
rest, then the rapid sprint to the end. They can look at the stories
they read for an idea of what pacing is. They can pick up any other book
they've read recently, or even short story, and break it down like that.
What happens first, second, etc? Are there moments of intense action
followed by moments where the characters get a break? They think about
this as they start to write. Many students have no idea how to begin
their story. Just as many have no idea what to write about or how to
develop the ideas they do have. Fantastic fiction has everything a
teacher needs to get students over these obstacles and on to completing
their first short story or chapter in a novel. The teacher should
explain many point of view definitions such as first, second and third
person, third person limited, third person omniscient and third person
objective. All concepts should be explained easily to understand terms
Students should be able to: get and develop ideas for their stories/
develop characters / find out what makes a good plot and get tools for
making sure their plots are consistent / decide what point of view to
write from / understand how to build a proper setting for their
characters and stories / learn how to write good descriptions / learn
the grammar rules for writing dialogue / learn how to write interesting
and realistic dialogue / discover the importance of "Showing" rather
than just "Telling" the reader / understand how to use symbolism and
foreshadowing in their writing / develop a writing style. There should
be an efficient way to edit and revise their stories.
Examples of creating writing activities
A. Creative Writing Using Comics
Grade Level(s): 8, 9, 10, (pre- intermediate/ intermediate level)
Subject(s): Language writing (composition)
Objective: To use comics to foster creative writing and vocabulary
Materials: newspapers, construction paper;
Procedures: The teacher asks students to name their favourite comic
strips and describe what they like best about the characters in the
strips. He/she tells students what his/her favourites are and explain
that the "bubbles" in comic strips take the place of quotation marks.
Using a comic strip from the newspaper, students try to write out
dialogues in standard form, using quotation marks and phrases of
Group Activity: The teacher has students create their own character to
be introduced as a newcomer to their favourite comic strip. For example,
they might develop a new kid in the "Peanuts" gang or a new pet in
Garfield's house. Then each student draws a picture of the new character
and writes a description of the character's personality. Next, students
draw their own three-frame comic strip, using both new and regular
characters. They should write the dialogue in bubbles above the
characters' heads. A good idea is to compile all the finished strips
together for a class "funny pages."
Follow-Up: Comics often contain unfamiliar words. Weekly vocabulary
lists will be a lot more fun when students develop their own lists of
new words, using comic strips as sources (serial and adventure strips
are especially good for this activity.) Each week teachers should have
students find five new words in the comics to write down and define. To
underline the importance of using words in context, students should cut
and paste the strips next to the words they have selected.
B. Creative Writing – “What Would Happen If?”
Major Objectives: 1. to produce a piece of creative writing;
2. to use word processing and graphics software;
3. to create a classroom journal combining creative writing and
Grade Level(s):9, 10, 11; (pre- intermediate/ intermediate level)
Subject(s): Language Arts/Writing (composition)
Materials: computers; printer Software: word processing, graphics;
Activities and Procedures: Firstly, the teacher should stir up the
students' imaginations with the following: “What is imagination?”, “Are
your imaginations like anyone else's?”, “Who are some people who use
imagination?” Then the teacher tells them that they will be dreaming and
imagining and creating word pictures of things that might never have
existed or happened. In addition, he/she presents the students with
"What Would Happen If..." scenarios. For example, "What would happen
if..." vegetables could talk; your brother turned into your sister;
water in the oceans evaporated; all clocks stopped; people decided to no
longer work for minimum wage; everyone looked alike; and all trees began
growing money. Teacher has the students brainstorm their ideas in phrase
form, using the word processor, and print out their notes. Then the
students use their ideas to develop a story, proof/edit it, and print
out a copy. They edit, and print a final copy. Students go on creating a
picture to illustrate their stories and print the picture at the top or
bottom of the stories. Finally they can combine stories into a booklet.
Follow-Up/Extension: It’s very important for them to spend a class
period sharing the stories and pictures and talking about new ones to
write. As a larger project, creative teachers can have their students
create a literary magazine.
C. Creative Writing - Collaborative Stories
Grade Level(s): 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Subject(s): Language writing (composition);
Overview: This is a creative writing time that takes a minimum of 25
minutes. During this time students are beginning their own story,
reading another's beginning and creating the middle section, reading yet
another story and finally developing a conclusion for that story.
Purpose: This activity encourages students to be creative in their own
writing, as well as being critical and analytical of another's. I find
that students, who accomplish very little during a typical, structured
writing time, become very involved in this type of writing.
Objective(s): To create the beginning of a story;
To introduce the characters and the setting;
To develop the action for the story;
To bring the story to a conclusion;
To read and analyze another's work;
To recognize the need for neat, well-organized work;
Resources/Materials: Pencils and writing paper for each student
Activities and Procedures: Each student is asked to take out a clean
piece of writing paper and a pencil. They do not put their name on this
paper. The direction is given to write the beginning of a story. The
characters' names should not be those of students in the class and gory
(blood and guts) type plots are not allowed. They are given 5 minutes to
write as much of the story as they can. (Time might be lengthened for
older students.) At the end of 5 minutes, the teacher directs the
students to pass their papers in a given order. The teacher tries to get
them at least 3 or 4 students away. The teacher has the students read
the story that has been started and continues it for the next 5 minutes
and reminds them that they are developing the plot.
At the end of these 5 minutes, again the teacher has the students pass
the papers in the same pattern as before. The students now read their
new story, keeping in mind that it will be their job to write the
conclusion for this story. Again the teacher allows the students 5
minutes for writing.
Tying It All Together
There are several possibilities. Any and or all could be used. They
could pass the stories yet another time and have a fourth student
illustrate the story then read it aloud to the class. Then they collect
the stories and use them for an editing activity. Two or three students
could edit the same story. After the stories have been edited, the
teacher should have them copied in best writing or put on the computer
and published as a class book available for free time reading by all.
Everyone enjoys hearing the stories read aloud and listening to see if
something they wrote is in that story and what others did with their
story line. The books are fun to go back to later in the year and see
how their writing skills have improved.
To conclude I want to point out that these activities encourage students
to be creative in their own writing. I find that students, who
accomplish very little during a typical, structured writing time, become
very involved in this type of writing. Thus, they get and develop ideas
for their stories, develop characters, discover the importance of
"Showing" rather than just "Telling" the reader. On the other hand they
understand how to use symbolism and foreshadowing in their writing and
the most important thing is that they develop a writing style.
Consequently, there should be an efficient way to edit and revise their
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Teaching, Assessment . www.culture2.coe.int/portfolio/documents_intro/common_framework.html
Improvisation and Dramatic Literature
by Cristiana Faur, George Cosbuc National Bilingual College
Key words: improvisation, drama, Macbeth, tension, negative feelings,
Improvisation can also be used to enhance one’s understanding of a dramatic
text. I do not consider it to be a sacriledge, but a means to help the
student get closer to a literary text, which otherwise would have been
difficult, if not inaccessible. If we can identify at least one emotion or
situation in the text that can be extracted and related to real experience,
this can be used as an entry point into the fictional world of the text.
These are some activities that were inspired by a well-known literary text,
Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They are intended to familiarize students with the
play, to link literature to every day personal experience and to facilitate
better understanding of self and others. Of course, we should not forget all
the others benefits of drama activities, of improvisation in particular…………
increased self-confidence, better commnunication skills, fun!
Activity 1: There are killers in the room!!
All the participants in this game stand up, eyes closed and backing the
leader of the group. The leader will choose 2-4 “murderers” by tapping on
their shoulders gently. The chosen ones do not have to move until allowed
to, because the rest of the group must not know their identity. Then
everybody will walk through the room, watching the others. These murderers
will “kill” the victims by simply winking at them. The one(s) who is/are
winked at will “die”. If someone sees the “murderer, then the murderer is
sent to jail. But if someone mistakes the “murderer” then s/he will also go
to jail. It is very important to look people in the eyes, and try to gues
who the murderer is. Otherwise the game is no fun.
The aim is to create tension, but in a pleasant way.
Activity 2: Get angry!
a. In pairs create a short improvisation whereby one of you is angry with
the other. You are annoyed at their foolish behaviour and are worried about
the consequences. Run these scene using language that you are familiar with.
b. Repeat the scene above, this time concentrating only on movement; leave
out the words, and focus on the gestures which you feel are appropiate to
the words, illustrating the tension within the scene.
c. Choose one sentence which contain tension and shout it as angrily as
possible. This can be shouted by several people, in turns, trying to enhance
The aim is to concentrate on body expression and voice.
Activity 3: Macbeth scene
Read the excerpt and identify the reason for the tension in this particular
scene.(At the end of the article you can also find the summary of the play
The dialogue takes place the very night of Banquo’s murder, during a dinner
given by Macbeth at the castle. Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth and sends
him into hysteria, scaring his guests and angering his wife. His very
presence as the king of Scotland has angered the other nobles and further
incites Macbeth’s misgivings and paranoia.
Macb: Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou dost glare with!
Lady M: Think of this, good peers,
But as a thing of custom: ‘tis no other;
Only it spoils the pleasure of the time.
Macb: What man dare, I dare:
Approach thou like the rugged Russian Bear,
The arm’d rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble: or be alive again,
And dare me to the desert with thy sword;
If trembling I inhabit then, protest me
The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery, hence! [ Ghost vanishes.
Why so: being alone,
I am a man again. Pray you, sit still.
Lady M: You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting,
With most admired disorder.
Macb: Can such things be,
And overcome us like a summer’s cloud,
Without our special wonder? You make me strange
Even to the disposition that I owe,
When now I think you can behold such sights,
And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks,
When mine in blanche’d with fear.
Ross: What sights , my lord?
Lady M: I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.
Lennox: Good night; and better health
Attend his majesty!
Lady M: A kind good night to all!
[ Exeunt all but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
Macb: It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood:
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
a. Prepare an improvisation, starting from the text that you have just read
and using common language. You need the following characters: Macbeth, Lady
Macbeth, Ross, the Ghost, some of the guests who are very scared of
Macbeth’s behaviour. Focus on the tension created by Macbeth’s fear and the
special circumstances in which he is, as well as the tension between himself
and his wife. Perform it in front of the group.
b. Work in pairs on a situation when somebody is trying to help somebody
else solve a fear. For example: one of you is a small child afraid of the
Boogie Man. Improvise the situation when mother or father is trying to
convince the child that there is no reason to be afraid. Present the
dialogue in front of the others. Use common language and emphasise the
tension by gestures and mimick.
The aim is to become aware of the universality of human feelings and the
link between literature and everyday life.
Activity 4: Interrogation scene
a. In pairs – one person remains still whilst the other walks around them,
sometimes moving close, sometimes at a distance but always watching. Discuss
b. In pairs – repeat the above only this time the person moving around can
begin to question the other, for example, who are you, what is your name,
what are you doing, etc. Ask question by raising your voice and be as
menacing as possible.
c. In pairs – commence an improvisation between parent and child/ police
officer and arrested person/ etc in which one is exercising his power over
the other one, being agressive.
d. Discuss the feelings you experienced.
The aim is to explore the tension within a particular situation.
Activity 5: Negative feelings
Improvise a situation in which one person experiences some sort of strong
negative feeling. Use words and body language to make it as clear as
possible. Choose one of the following situations:
• challenging status (i.e. teacher- student/policeman – arrested person)
• different energy levels (i.e. dentist waiting-room)
The aim is to allow freer experimentation of negative feelings.
Summary of Macbeth (taken from http://www.wikisummaries.org/Macbeth)
The play opens with Macbeth and Banquo, two of the Scottish King Duncan’s
generals returning from battle when they encounter three witches in the
woods. The witches tell Macbeth of how he will become the Thane of Cawdor
and then the King of Scotland. For Banquo, they prophesize that he will
beget the line of Scottish Kings, though he will never become king himself.
The two are sufficiently skeptical and continue their journey home.
However, when the two come closer to the encampment, they are presented with
a messenger from King Duncan who announces that Macbeth has been made the
Thane of Cawdor, immediately putting the prophecy into perspective, making
Macbeth wonder how he might become king. He invites Duncan to dine at his
castle that evening and goes ahead to tell his wife of the day’s events.
Unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is very sure of her husband’s future, desiring
the throne and telling him that they must murder Duncan to ensure his
ascension. Immediately upon returning to his castle, Lady Macbeth is able to
convince her husband to take initiative and murder Duncan that very night.
The two plan to get Duncan’s chamberlains drunk enough that they will not
remember the evening and blame them for the murder. When the body of Duncan
is discovered in the morning, Macbeth quickly kills the “culprits” and
assumes the kingship. All the while, Duncan’s sons flee the country, afraid
for their own lives.
Immediately, Macbeth’s misgivings and trust in the prophecies force his hand
in the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance as well, afraid that his heirs
will seize the throne. Successfully killing Banquo, the murderers fail to
The night of his murder, Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth and sends him
into hysteria, scaring his guests and angering his wife. His very presence
as the king of Scotland has angered the other nobles and further incites
Macbeth’s misgivings and paranoia.
To ease his fears, he visits the witches again and they offer to him more
prophecies. He must beware of Macduff, a chief opponent to Macbeth taking
the throne. He cannot be harmed by any man born of woman and he is safe
until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. He returns home and finds that
Macduff has fled to England to join Malcom. In fear, Macbeth seizes
Macduff’s castle and orders the murder of his wife and children, inciting
Macduff to further rage. With Malcom, the two raise an army and ride to
Scotland to take on Macbeth with the support of the Scottish nobles who fear
Macbeth’s tyranny and murderous ways.
While Macbeth awaits his opponents, Lady Macbeth is in the process of going
mad, unable to wash the blood from her hands. The news of her suicide
reaches Macbeth directly before the arrival of the English forces and sends
him into an even deeper despair. He awaits confidently as the prophecy
foretold his invulnerability. However, Macduff’s forces arrive under the
cover of boughs cut from Birnam wood. When Macbeth is finally confronted by
Macduff after his forces have been overwhelmed, Macduff announces that he
was “ripped from his mother’s womb” not born and ultimately defeats and
beheads Macbeth, handing the crown back to Malcolm, the rightful heir.
The Role of Learning Strategies in SLA. Teaching Our
Students How to Learn
by Elisabeta Maxim, School no. 2, Botoşani
Keywords: learning strategies, SBI, strategic learners, research
“Learning strategies are the conscious thoughts and actions that
learners take in order to achieve a learning goal. Strategic learners
have metacognitive knowledge about their own thinking and learning
approaches, a good understanding of what a task entails, and the ability
to orchestrate the strategies that best meet both the task demands and
their own learning strengths.”
Anna Uhl Chamot
An important contribution that learners make to acquiring a second
language is their use of learning strategies – the techniques or
procedures that facilitate a learning task.
Learning strategies are important in second language acquisition for two
In investigating strategies used by second language learners during the
learning process, we gain insights into the cognitive, social and
affective processes involved in language learning – these insights can
help us understand these mental processes as they relate to second
language acquisition and can also clarify similarities and differences
between language learning and general learning processes.
It may be possible to teach less successful language learners to use
strategies that characterize their more successful peers, thus helping
students who are experiencing difficulty in learning a second language
become better language learners.
Therefore, two major goals in language learning strategy research are
1. identify and compare the learning strategies used by more and less
successful language learners
2. provide instruction to less successful language learners that helps
them become more successful in their language study.
Identification of language learning strategies
Researchers have used a variety of approaches for identifying the mental
processes used by learners as they seek to understand, remember and use
a new language.
Observation of students in language classrooms has proved singularly
fruitless as a method of identifying students’ strategies. The reason
why classroom observation yields little information about students’ use
of learning strategies is that most learning strategies are mental
processes and as such are not directly observable in terms of outward
behaviour. Therefore, research in this area has relied for the most part
on learners self-reports. These self-reports have been made through:
stimulated recall interviews
written diaries and journals
think-aloud protocols concurrent with a learning task.
Each of these methods has limitations, but at the present time the only
way to gain any insight at all into the unobservable mental learning
strategies of learners is by asking them to reveal their thinking
As Grenfell and Harris (1999) have stated:
[…] it is not easy to get inside the ‘black box’ of the human brain and
find out what is going on there. We work with what we can get, which,
despite the limitations, provides food for thought […]
In retrospective interviews, learners are asked to reflect on a learning
task and recall what strategies or ‘special tricks’ they used to carry
out the task. The task may be a recently completed one or a typical task
with which the learner is familiar, such as learning and remembering
vocabulary words or reading a story in the target language.
- the questions may be:
- open-ended e.g. What do you do when you are reading and you see an
- specific e.g. When you are reading and see an unfamiliar word, do you
make inferences about the meaning or just read on?
– that they provide a great deal of flexibility, as the interviewer can
clarify the questions if necessary, ask follow-up questions and comment
on the student’s responses
– in addition, if the retrospective interview is conducted with a small
group of three or four students, one student’s comments can spur the
memories of other students about their uses of learning strategies
are that students may not report their strategy use accurately, that
they may report what they perceive as the interviewer’s preferred
that they may claim to use strategies that they have been encouraged
by teachers rather than actually used by students.
A stimulated recall interview is more likely to accurately reveal
students’ learning strategies because it is conducted immediately after
the student has engaged in a learning task. The actual task is
videotaped, the interviewer then plays back the videotape, pausing if
necessary, and asks the students to describe his or her thoughts at that
specific moment during the learning task.
studying learning strategies through stimulated recall interviews can
produce task-specific strategy descriptions with corroborating evidence
of their use.
however, this method is time-consuming and only yields the strategies
used on one occasion for a specific task. It does not reveal the range
of students’ strategies or their frequency across tasks.
Questionnaires are the easiest way to collect data about students’
reported use of learning strategies and questionnaires such as Oxford’s
Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) have been used
extensively to collect data on large numbers of language learners.
– a questionnaire that has now been tested in many countries and
translated into several languages
– the 50 items divided into six categories (direct - memory, cognitive,
compensation and indirect - metacognitive, affective, social), each
presents a possible strategy which responders must indicate on a
five-point scale of ‘never true of me’ to ‘always true of me’.
Other studies have developed questionnaires focused on particular
learning activities in which their subjects were engaged. These
questionnaires are based on tasks that students have just completed,
reasoning that students will be more likely to remember and to report
accurately if little time has elapsed. The limitations of this approach
are that, to date, there has been no standardization of either tasks or
follow up questionnaires, so that it is impossible to make comparisons
On the other hand, the SILL is a standardized measure with versions for
students of a variety of languages, and as such can be used to collect
and analyze information about large numbers of language learners. It has
also been used in studies that correlate strategy use with variables
such as learning styles, gender, proficiency level, and culture.
one of the advantages of questionnaires, aside from their ease of
administration, is that students are asked to rate the frequency with
which they use a particular strategy, rather than only indicating
whether they use it at all
students may not understand the intend of a question, that they may
answer according to their perception of the ‘right answer’ and that the
questionnaire may not fully elicit all of a student’s strategies.
Diaries and journals have also been used to collect information about
language learners’ strategies. In these, learners write personal
observations about their own learning experiences and the ways in which
they have solved or attempted to solve language problems.
as with other verbal reports, learners may not necessarily provide
accurate descriptions of their learning strategies.
Rubin suggests using diaries for instructional purposes as a way to help
students develop metacognitive awareness of their own learning processes
A think-aloud protocol involves a one-to-one interview in which the
language learner is given a target language task and asked to describe
his or her thoughts while working on it. The interviewer may prompt with
open-ended questions such as: What are you thinking right now? Why did
you stop and start over?. Think-aloud interviews are recorded and
transcribed verbatim, then analysed for evidence of learning strategies.
The rich insights into language learning strategies provided through
think-aloud protocols tend to reveal on-line processing, rather than
metacognitive aspects of planning or evaluating.
often provide a very clear picture of a learner's on-line processing
these include the presence of the interviewer and the somewhat
artificial situation, which may affect the learner’s response.
e.g. The learner may not engage in his / her usual amount of planning
before engaging in the task because of a perception that the interviewer
wants the task to be completed quickly. Similarly, once the task is
completed, the learner may not (without a direct prompt) take the time
to look back on the task and evaluate his / her performance.
an additional drawback of think-aloud procedures is that individual
interviews, transcription and analysis are extraordinarily labour-intensive.
In spite of these difficulties, however, data collected through
think-aloud protocols provide rich insights into language learning
The instructional applications of the tools that researchers have used
to identify language learning strategies are especially valuable for
teachers who wish to discover their students’ current learning
strategies before beginning to teach learning strategies. For example,
teachers can ask students to complete a language task, and then lead a
classroom discussion about how students completed the task and point out
the learning strategies that students mention. Teachers could also
develop a questionnaire appropriate for the age and proficiency level of
their students and have students complete it immediately after
completing a task. For a more global picture of their students’ learning
strategies in general, teachers might want to use the SILL. When
strategy instruction is underway and students show evidence that they
understand and are using some of the strategies independently, teachers
could ask them to keep a diary or journal about their use of strategies
in the language class and in other contexts, thus encouraging transfer.
Teachers can make their own thinking public by “thinking aloud” as they
work on a task familiar to students, commenting on their own learning
strategies as they go. All of these approaches can help students develop
their own metacognition about themselves as strategic learners.
Since any type of self-report is subject to the limitations of the
individual reporting, it would seem advisable to use two or three
different types in any research study so that triangulation can help
establish validity and reliability.
The good language learner
Research on language learning strategies has focused mainly on
descriptive studies that have identified characteristics of ‘the good
language learner’ and compared the strategies of more effective and less
effective language learners. These studies have been important in
understanding how language learners use strategies and they have
provided important information to guide experimental studies to identify
the effects of learning strategies instruction on students.
These studies identified the good language learner as one who:
is an active learner
monitors language production
practices communicating in the language
makes use of prior linguistic knowledge
use various memorization techniques
asks for clarification.
Other investigations compared the learning strategy profiles of more and
less successful students in ESL classrooms. Differences between more and
less effective learners were found in the number and range of strategies
used, in how the strategies were applied to the task, and whether they
were appropriate for the task. These studies confirmed that good
language learners demonstrated adeptness at matching strategies to the
task they were working on, while the less successful learners seemed to
lack the metacognitive knowledge about task requirements needed to
select appropriate strategies.
Applied research on language learning strategies investigates the
feasibility of helping students become more effective language learners
by teaching them some of the learning strategies that descriptive
studies have identified as characteristic of the “good language
Models for language learning strategy instruction
A number of models for teaching learning strategies in both first and
second language contexts have been developed. These instructional models
share many features.
All agree on the importance of developing students’ metacognitive
understanding of the value of learning strategies and suggest that this
is facilitated through teacher demonstration and modelling.
All emphasize the importance of providing multiple practice
opportunities with the strategies so that students can use them
All suggest that students should evaluate how well a strategy has
worked, choose strategies for a task, and actively transfer strategies
to new tasks.
All the models begin by identifying students’ current learning
strategies through activities such as completing questionnaires,
engaging in discussions about familiar tasks, and reflecting on
strategies used immediately after performing a task. These models all
suggest that the teacher should model the new strategy, thus making the
instruction explicit. The CALLA model (Cognitive Academic Language
Learning Approach - Chamot) is recursive rather than linear so that
teachers and students always have the option of revisiting prior
instructional phases as needed. The Grenfell and Harris model, on the
other hand, has students work through a cycle of six steps, then begin a
new cycle. The Cohen model (Styles and Strategies-Based Instruction) has
the teacher take on a variety of roles in order to help students learn
to use learning strategies appropriate to their own learning styles. The
Grenfell and Harris model provides initial familiarization with the new
strategies, then has students make personal action plans to improve
their own learning, whereas the CALLA model builds in a self-evaluation
phase for students to reflect on their use of strategies before going on
to transfer the strategies to new tasks.
In summary, current models of language learning strategy instruction are
solidly based on developing students’ knowledge about their own thinking
and strategic processes and encouraging them to adopt strategies that
will improve their language learning and proficiency.
What questions still need to be answered?
Although we have learned a great deal about language learning strategies
in the last twenty or more years, there is a need for further studies
that describe learners’ current strategies, that teach learners new
strategies and that develop teachers’ ability to provide learning
strategy instruction in the classroom. It is important that learning
strategies research continue for only through a better understanding of
learning and teaching process can more language learners achieve the
level of success that currently characterizes only a small proportion of
all of the students studying a foreign or second language around the
Chamot, A.U., O' Malley, J.M., 1994 - The CALLA handbook: Implementing
the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach. White Plains, NY:
Addison Wesley Longman.
Chamot, A.U., Barnhardt, S., El-Dinary, P.B., Robbins, J., 1999 - The
learning strategies handbook. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.
O' Malley, J.M., & Chamot, A.U., 1990 - Learning strategies in second
language acquisition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Oxford, R.L., 1990 - Language learning strategies: What every teacher
should know. New York: Newbury House.
Rubin, J., & Thompson, I., 1994 - How to be a more successful language
learner (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
Wenden, A.L., 1991 - Learner strategies for learner autonomy. London:
Language, Methodology and Culture. A
Comenius Grant in Brighton, UK
by Bogdan Lazanu, Alecu Russo School, Iaşi
ELC, language, methodology, culture, grant
Between January 04th and 15th this year, I had the chance to take part in a
course for ELF teachers organised by the English Language Centre from
Brighton and Hove, UK, due to the Comenius mobility grant I got from
There I lived in homestay accommodation, which provided me the perfect
opportunity to experience British life and to practise my English in
The course was coordinated by Alex Thorp and Martyn Ford, two experienced
teacher trainers from the ELC.
The daily school programme was between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. From the very
beginning the teacher trainers created good opportunities for the
participants to get to know each other. The other course participants were
from Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Italy and Spain. At the end
of the first day we went to a pub for the welcome party organised by the ELC.
As you can notice from the title, the course focused on English language,
methodology of language teaching and some elements of British life and
From this course I learned that the English language is changing every day,
either by borrowing words from other languages, or giving birth to new ones.
An example of the latter idea would be the word 'staycation', which refers
to staying at home during your holidays.
Another important aspect of the contemporary English language that I learned
about at this course is the culture of conversation. The language carries
with it a variety of characteristics rooted in the culture.
Here are some of the most important English cultural aspects used in real
- modality and indirectness in requests (will, can, could etc)
- softeners (i.e. 'Would you mind explaining...' or 'I hope you don't mind…'
- distance and hedging ('I would say that' / 'It appears to me')
- apology and politeness markers (like please and thank you)
- showing interest - back channeling, echo questions
- taboos - the use of imperative statements are is not natural in English
and therefore it is considered a taboo.
From the methodological point of view the course provided us, the
participants, with very practical teaching ideas and new techniques as
creative ideas for teaching grammar, using the Internet and the new
technology in the classroom, techniques for teaching pronunciation,
classroom language, using games, songs, videos and drama in the ELT
Within the second week we had the chance to observe some lessons of other
teachers from the ELC that we discussed with our teacher afterwards. I chose
to observe a group of international students preparing for the FCE exam,
taught by Pam, specialised in teaching Cambridge examinations courses (FCE
and CAE). She was teaching her students behavioural and body language
techniques during oral examinations.
Concerning the cultural and social aspects of British life we addressed
Dave, who was in charge with that kind of activities. On the second day of
the first week he took us to a tour of Brighton. On this tour we found out
some interesting things about the history of Brighton&Hove and later on we
visited some of the local beauty spots such as Devil's Dyke, The Royal
Pavilion, The Lanes and last but not least the Brighton Pier.
At the weekend in between we had a day trip to London on Saturday. There
should have been another one to Oxford, but that was cancelled because of
the bad weather conditions.
On the last Friday we exchanged our e-mail addresses and took a group photo.
At the end of the day we have all been invited to a pub-crawl by Alex on
behalf of the ELC.
On this occasion I met great people from different countries with whom I
have exchanged ideas about our countries, schools and of course about
teaching English. So, if you want to apply for a Comenius grant in UK and
you haven't made up your mind about the location, ELC Brighton&Hove would be
a great choice, especially in the summer time.
Crosscultural Communication and Teachers.
The Need to Learn How to Be an Effective Communicator Across Cultures
by Maria Roşu, “Carol I” School, Plopeni, Prahova
Keywords: communication, culture, nation, the internet, difference
Generally, cross cultural communication is the most important
and vital issue for all communication. This is because culture has multiple
aspects. Cross cultural communication is and will be the only “gate” to
life, the only way to keep nations’ identity and to be “there” in a seat
around that global table. Distances and borders between states disappear.
Cross cultural communication is becoming a “need”. Books written by people
like Geert Hosfetede “Culture’s Consequences” offer them instructions about
how to handle intercultural management problems.
Cultural differences are not only national; they can rely on gender, class,
religion, education, sexual preference. They are the consequence of the
social position that the person has in society. The condition for an
efficient communication is to look into the social distance towards the
other. Relations and interactions between people are determined by
differences of power. At the same time the people’s social position
influences their perceptions towards reality. Every culture functions
following its own internal movement, its own principles and laws – written
or not, spoken or not. Even time and space are built and perceived in a
different way. Some people think that differences between cultures are
superficial. And it is a very big mistake. There are very important
differences regarding habits, manners. An example of such differences is in
France, between Flemish and Bretons. Romanian customs differ in Moldavia or
Social positions are not determined only by the nation we are part of but
also by our every day local culture. The culture of everyday life is routine
underlined by the practical sense, product of socializing in childhood. It
teaches us how to behave as men and women for example. On this level people
learn fundamental behaviors and taste: what to eat or not to eat, how to
keep his house clean and so on.
We also have in society complex domains which produce culture. Developing a
domain depends on the “fight” between participants. Communication between
the members of the same domain is relatively easy because they are driven by
the same implication and attitude.
Under the influence of the globalization process, domains become cross
cultural. In every domain such as pop music, fashion, management – domains
that surpass national borders, local traditions are influenced by global
cultural products. Communication between participants concentrates on
central matters. For a better communication it is important to know the
domain. Understanding between participants is easier because the differences
are less important. Football fans, pop music fans speak the same “language”
and understanding is relatively easy due to the common domain. This helps
understand each other. Every cross-cultural domain knows its own implication
spiritual and physical wealth, young music and imaginary stories. In
conclusion, for a successful communication in a cross-cultural domain is
more important to know the domain than the national culture of a country.
Obviously one can understand that the structure and size of the domain can
vary. The medical domain can involve the whole globe; on the other hand
football can involve several continents. Domains such economical domain,
fashion, film industry, sport, education, social services, pop and rock
music.. all of them offer us the possibility to identify which goes beyond
national borders. We can also say that they form aspects of personal
identity. The communication partner can change between these identities. The
ability to switch between different identities facilitates communication.
“Culture can be compared with a very complex and subtle computer. It (
culture) can programme every gesture, every reactions even feelings. And we
have to learn the << programme>> if we want the system to function the way
we want. Making the system function means being careful about the way we
live, we survive”. ( 26, Hall E, 1994).
It is all about the culture of a nation and about identity. Human beings
used to live in a single world which could be their homes, cities, or even
their country. But this is not the case anymore. After the recent media and
information revolutions, people are more concerned with the world around
them. And we can say that every nation should and must be “intercultural”
and cross cultural communicators in order to live nowadays. It is an age of
rapid change that occurs every single moment. People communicate all the
time and there is the tendency that borders between cultures vanish. Thus,
the importance of cross-cultural communication is significant. We cannot
hide and neglect the rest of the world. Every nation has to find the
necessary words to present the world his own culture, thoughts, needs, aims
but in the same time to understand the others as well. Cross-cultural
communication is not just about being a good listener, it is more about we
know how to understand and respect the other as well. Without this all we
can find will be more wars and more conflicts around the world.
With the Internet the opportunities for communication across culture have
simply exploded. Undoubtedly, there is an unrecorded potential for
misunderstanding. The combination of cultures affects human relationships.
It is up to us, foreign language teachers, to have the knowledge, develop
the sensitivity and appreciate the importance of understanding the diversity
in communication styles, to be able to become a better observer of other
cultures, and a more successful communicator. Knowledge of other cultures is
better acquired by experience than by study. Teachers should experience
cultures different from their own. Bill Gates challenges the idea that
technology will dehumanize formal education. He argues that technology
empowers students to become active learners as it provides them with the
means of gathering information from and sharing information with a global
community. There is no doubt that, when properly used, technology can
supplement instruction and facilitate learning by making learners more
responsible of their learning.
However, people believe that the technical act of communication that
learners experience via the internet can replicate the dynamic social
interactions between teachers and students and among students themselves
when they come face to face. As Higgins and Johns (1984, p.8) put it: “There
is warmth and immediacy in contact with another human being, which no amount
of electronics could ever replace. In the early days of language
laboratories, when mechanized drill and practice was seen as the panacea for
all language learning problems…..such basic things as eye contact and smiles
between teacher and students turned a dry exercise into something closer to
communication.” All in all it is teachers’ primary aim to seek to remove
cross cultural communication barriers from the school environment.
Communication’s ethnography, illustrated by D.Hymes, the creator of the
concept “skill in communication” was a reaction to N. Chomsky’s belief that
“being able to speak means being able to produce and interpret a finite
number of well formed phrases”. Hymes underlines the importance of
“socio-cultural knowledge” of people. Without this we could not communicate
efficiently in specific cultural situations. Thus, a person who was taught
in school just to produce and interpret nice sentences in French will be
taken as impolite by French natives who do not know that polite formulas are
more numerous in French compared to Romanian in certain situations. (For
example, what we say in Romanian” Thank you. Good bye”, is translated in
French by “Merci beaucoup Monsieur. C’est trop aimable de votre part. Au
revoir, Monsieur et merci encore.” These words should necessarily be said
I am a teacher of English and I try as much as possible to use different
patterns of interaction. I use:
T → whole class
T → individual student (in whole class activity)
T → individual student (with pair or group work)
Student → Student (open pairs)
Student → Student (closed pairs)
Students working individually
Students working in groups
Student → whole class
Each pattern has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, I think that
variety of interaction in the language lesson is important. I try to lay
emphasis on everyday speech because culture may be considered everyday
language and behavior. As language is for communication, a medium for
personal sharing and belonging I told my students that it is a good thing to
communicate, especially in English with as many people as they can. I have a
student in the 8th grade who speaks English very well. Last summer she went
to America to visit her cousins. When she came back I was curious to know as
much as possible about her experience there especially from the cultural
point of view and also linguistically. Ant this is what I asked her and what
she answered me (I am Maria Tudorache – MT and she is Roxana Costache -RC):
MT: Hello, Roxana. How nice to see you again back to school!
RC: Hello, teacher! How are you?
MT: I am fine, thank you. But tell us (me and the other students) about your
summer holiday. We have heard that you visited your cousins in America.
RC: Yes, it is true.
MT: And where did you go?
RC: I went to New York. This is where my aunt and uncle live.
MT: How long have they lived there?
RC: They have lived there for six years.
MT: Have you ever visited them since they left?
RC: No, it is the first time.
MT: Did you travel alone?
RC: No, with my grandfather. But…ha-ha-ha…if I hadn’t gone with him we would
have got lost in the airport…..and he didn’t like it there…..there were too
many people on the streets…..he couldn’t understand the language at all…..he
didn’t like the people there…..
MT: What about you? How did you like it there?
RC: Yes I liked very much but the teenagers are quite different. They don’t
have as much homework as we do, they play on their computers all day
long…they even use a different kind of language…..
MT: What do you mean by “different kind of language”? Give us some examples.
CR: For example they use a lot of abbreviations such as “asap”. Do you know
what this means?... Well I didn’t know it meant “as soon as possible”. Or
CUL means “see you later” or LOL means “Lots of love” ………
This is just a fragment of our conversation. It was a real “lesson” for me
as I realized then that my students were not prepared to speak to native
speakers. But they are quite poor children and do not have the financial
possibility to visit different English speaking countries as to improve
their language skills. And I think that the influence of American or British
culture through films, TV and popular music is not enough. And I encouraged
them to use as much as possible the chat rooms on the Internet, to make new
friends, to read what students are writing to each other and , the most
important thing, to write down the new words and expressions they have
learnt from their experience. So, according to Hymes’ speaking grid, the
setting and time are specified: pupils communicate on chat rooms whenever
they can do it, except the school schedule, the participants to the
conversation are students who share the same interests and opinions, they
ask and answer questions using English. The purpose of their conversation is
to exchange personal experience, ideas, to develop solidarity. The tone is
relaxed, the conversation is informal. The communication channel is verbal
or written because, thanks to new technology, children can speak on a
microphone or even they can see each other. And here appears the importance
of accents. Students can tell stories, jokes; they can even “fight” with
The conclusion was that we all learnt a great deal of new words and
expressions such as:
webhead = someone who uses the internet a lot
cyberland = activity that involves the Internet
AFAIK = a written abbreviation of ‘as far as I know’
B4 = the written abbreviation of ‘before’
BCNU = ‘be seeing you’
BTW = ‘by the way’
FAQ = ‘frequently asked questions’
JIT = ‘just in time’
PLS = ‘please’
All in all, there is no formula on how to be an effective communicator
across cultures. There are handbooks on how to do business in China, or how
not to offend people in Fiji, and these guides contain useful information
about these cultures. In French culture there is a complicated network of
personal relations, as informal contacts are very important. In most
business cultures writing memos and letters and minutes is often for self
defense than communication. In German culture there is a lot of written
communication as they do not communicate as much on the phone.
On the other hand, the Italians have a complicated communication channel.
Dictating memos is regarded as a waste of time. People write their own or
use the phone and facts are kept secret. For Spanish people communication is
predominantly oral and, since the telephone system works so badly,
face-to-face. The need to communicate to subordinates or colleagues anything
other than what is strictly necessary to do the job is an innovation.
Management keeps a closed door, especially if they are talking to someone
else. There is plenty of one-to-one communication with the boss, as this is
the conventional way for decisions to be made and instructions given, while
everyone else wonders what they are talking about. Except in the largest
companies there is a marked absence of correspondence and memos and staff
notice boards. For the British people, communication is mainly vertical.
They tend to prefer the phone instead of the personal visits and they also
use memos. The Greeks do not trust written communication. They prefer the
phone as important personal contact.
With respect to removing stereotypical language, online communication brings
awareness of the need to choose words, images and situations which avoid
using qualifiers reinforcing racial and ethnic stereotypes, racial
identification, or language that has questionable racial or ethnic
connotations. Body language being absent, we should respect rules for
distance. We should also become conscious of the fact that cultures will
vary in what they consider humor or taboo, which might give rise to
misinterpretation. For example Romanians are considered less polite than the
French. It is also said that everybody speaks French in Romania. People used
to say that Bucharest is the little Paris. Another stereotype is that
Romanians are lazy and this is why they are poor. But aspects of Romanian
life are very positive. For example if someone comes round to a Romanian
house, he makes sure that they are treated really well. He even says: “You
can come round to my house at any time you want as long as you call me, I’m
not worried or bothered” That’s a very Romanian behavior. The English way is
that you have to make appointments and all you will get is a little cup of
tea and a biscuit.
And when a Romanian says “come round any time”, he actually means it,
whereas with the English people you do not know whether to trust them,
whether they are just saying it as part of conversation. Or if an Englishman
wants to meet a relative at 3.30 and he is an hour late, he gets really
upset. Romanians are quite different from this point of view.
In conclusion I think that the key to successful cross cultural
communication is accepting difference. Nations should try to remove cross
cultural barriers. We should try and learn to remove language which appears
to stereotype people and reduce violations of cultural rules during
discussions and conversations.
1. Hall E.T., Hall M.R (1994): Comprendre les Japonais ,Paris, Seuil.
2. J Mole, Mind your Manners, London, The Industrial Society.
3. Higgis, J and T.Johns. (1984) “Introduction”. Computers in Language
Learning. Collins ELT
4. Micaela Gulea, Bazele comunicarii fata in fata I , Bucuresti, ASE, 2003.
5. Dumitru Zait, Management Intercultural, Ed. Economica.
Boadicea and the Wall. A Communicative
Approach to Teaching Culture and Civilization
by Mihaela Rosu (Para), Economic High School “V Madgearu”, Iasi
Keywords: communicative approach, Boadicea,
intabulation (a new entry in English)
Sometimes culture and civilization may prove hard to teach. Likewise 16th
century history facts may sound too remote to a 16 year old star craft
player and TV watcher. Turning “dead” events into drama can prove effective
as the reluctant learner becomes able to perceive “fact” as “act” with the
least effort ever. Here I am suggesting a short dramatized and slightly
Balkan version that might help us in teaching a lesson such as “Invaders”(
from the “English My Love” textbook):
Boadicea and the Wall (A One-Act Play on British History)
1 the off stage critic:
2 the narrator:
3 queen Boadicea:
4 the vice queen:
5 the druid:
6 two Celtic soldiers( dressed approximately like Asterix and Obelix)
7 the Viking:
8 the architect:
9 two Roman soldiers:
COSTUMES: garlands and helmets (Celtic, Roman, Viking), cartons with names,
a carton chariot, flowers, beard and hair, a walking stick, a broom,
chocolate box, eyeglasses, a large bag, bills, agenda, ruler, pencil,
mobile, nail polisher, newspaper, a pink bag, strainer, a ½ l bottle,
NARRATOR AND ART CRITIC IN THE BACKGROUND.
NARRATOR: It is spring time. Queen Boadicea is picking up flowers on the
sunny hills of merry England.
BOADICEA PICKS UP FLOWERS GRATIOUSLY
CRITIC: Hey, it’s the 1st century AD for Christ’s sake!
NARRATOR: Oh, I’m sorry, did I say England? There must have been a slip of
the mind.! On the sunny hills of NOWHERE YET where the merry Celts live. So:
Queen Boadicea is picking up flowers where I have just mentioned.
QUEEN BOADICEA: Will you cut the crap and let me sing my beautiful lullaby!
(SHE SHOWS EVER GROWING SIGNS OF AGGRAVATION)
NARRATOR :Sorry, ma’am.(BENDS HIS HEAD TO WATCH CLOSER)daffodils,,
petunias…petunias! Petunias don’t bloom in spring!
QUEEN BOADICEA (PICKING UP FLOWERS, TURNS HER HEAD IN ANGER) May I!(AND
STARTS SINGING HER BEAUTIFUL CELTIC LULLABY):
Over in Killarney
Many years ago
Me mither sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low
Just a simple ditty
In her ould Celtic way
CRITIC FROWNS AT NARRATOR. NARRATOR RAISES SHOULDERS AND BROWS
ARCHITECT (ENTERS THE STAGE WITH A RULER, A PENCIL, AN AGENDA.HE WEARS BIG
GLASSES AND CARRIES A BAG) Will you step aside lady. I am here with
QUEEN BOADICEA: Alas! The intruders have invaded my beautiful country
already! My end is near, it’s almost here!
(MEANTIME THE NARRATOR POLISHES HIS NAILS AND CRITIC PLAYS ON HIS MOBILE
QUEEN BOADICEA: Do you have an authorization!
ARCHITECT: Sure, ma’am. (SEARCHES HIS BAG) There it is. No, sorry, that’s
the electricity bill.(SEARCHES AGAIN) There. See! That’s emperor Hadrian’s
signature. And his seal.
QUEEN BOADICEA: Really! Will you excuse me, I have a conference to attend.
On human rights. Will you speak to my vice queen, please!
ARCHITECT: No problem.
QUEEN BOADICEA: Vice queen! Vice queeeen!
VICE QUEEN: Yes, my fair queen! Hath thou summoneth me!
QUEEN BOADICEA: Yes, dear. Will you talk to Mr road engineer here! I’m
afraid he’s lost!
QUEEN BOADICEA (SMILING): Yes. And bring me my chariot, please!
VICE QUEEN (STARTS SINGING):Swing low ,
Sweet chariot/Coming for to carry me home!
TWO CELTIC SOLDIERS LOOKING LIKE ASTERIX AND OBELIX ENTER THE STAGE CARYING
A CARTON CHARIOT WITH A MERCEDES SIGN ON IT):
CRITIC: Look! Asterix and Obelix!
OBELIX (INTRIGUED): Haven’t I lost weight lately!
ASTERIX (RAISES BROW AND TURNS HEAD DISCREETELY)
QUEEN BOADICEA: Step on it man! I’m in a hurry!(THEY EXEUNT STAGE. SHE
THROWS FLOWERS AT THE AUDIENCE LIKE A DIVA. ASTERIX AND OBELIX RETURN IN THE
VICE QUEEN (TURNING TO THE ARCHITECT) So you were saying…
ARCHITECT: Yes, ma’am. So: I am here to build Hadrian’s wall. Here: my
authorization, my intabulation…
VICE QUEEN: Intabulation! Is there such a word in English? Or Celtic?(TURNS
HEAD TO NARRATOR AND CRITIC):
NARRATOR: Don’t ask.
CRITIC: Don’t ask.
(ASTERIX AND OBELIX PLAY CARDS .THEY ALSO HAVE A BOTTLE AND A NEWSPAPER)
VICE QUEEN: Whatever. Do you own the land?
ARCHITECT: Not yet lady. We are working on it.(TWO ROMAN SOLDIERS SHOW UP
CARRYING A PINK BAG AND A STRAINER)
VICE QUEEN: A lawyer! I need a lawyer!
(A LONG HAIRED AND BEARDED DRUID SHOWS UP WITH A WALKING STICK AND A BUNCH
OF SOMETHING) Hath thou summoneth me, my mistress? Here .I hath gathered
magic herbs all morning! Dandelion for thy acne! Burdoch for thy hair! Mint
and yarrow. Ginseng for…
VICE QUEEN: Thanks wise old man. I hath not summoneth thou but please be
seated.(SHOWS HIM A LOG. TURNS TO ARCHITECT)Look sir! As they say in “The
5th Element” I am a little disappointed. Your authorization is valid for
several decades later. You’ve come too early.
ARCHITECT: No!(CHECKS THE DATE)Indeed! Hadrian’s wall was built around
mmmnhm AD…and we are..hmmnhm…
NARRATOR: Dork! You are supposed to invade the country first! Isn’t it
so!(TURNS TO CRITIC)
ARCHITECT:Right! I knew it was something! Where is the author!(TURNS TO HIS
SOLDIERS AND SPEAKS IN DETERMINATION): My brave Roman soldiers! For the
glory of our empire…chaarge!
(THE 2 ROMAN SOLDIERS DASH TO ASTERIX AND OBELIX AND KICK THEM WITH STRAINER
AND A PINK BAG. ASTERIX AND OBELIX KEEP SITTING. THEY WAVE HANDS AND
NEWSPAPER IN DEFENSE)
VICE QUEEN: My dearest soldiers. For the glory of the Celtic football team,
do not let the invaders plunder our country and drink our whiskey!
(ASTERIX AND OBELIX STAND UP AND FIGHT THE ROMANS WITH NEWSPAPER AND
BOTTLE.DRUID STANDS UP AND KICKS THEM WITH THE STICK)
(A VIKING RIDING A BROOM ENTERS STAGE)
NARRATOR: That’s a Viking!
CRITIC: Indeed he is.
VICE QUEEN AND ARCHITECT: A Viking! Get out of my century, barbarian scum!
VIKING: Oh, I’m sorry, did I break up your concentration!(EXEUNT STAGE)
NARRATOR: Wasn’t that a remark from “Pulp Fiction!”
CRITIC: I’m afraid so!
NARRATOR: Friends, Romans, countrymen! Lend me your ear! It’s time to end up
this mess and have a coffee break!(THEY STOP FIGHTING AND TURN TO HIM.HE
GIVES THEM CHOCOLATES FROM THE BOX. THEY ALL CHEW. QUEEN BOADICEA AND VIKING
JOIN FROM THE OFF STAGE)
CRITIC: As we all know, history is something hard to chew. We sincerely hope
that our presentation will make facts more digestible.
(THEY ALL BOW TO THE AUDIENCE)
With a little imagination, the experiment may be taken even further. Just
think of a one or two-act piece of drama dealing with the Sequence of
Tenses! Wouldn’t that be 100 per cent communicative in approach?
Optional and Intensive Courses . The Need
to Communicate in English
by Raluca-Alexandra Herăscu, School No.
148 „G. Călinescu”, Bucharest
multicultural family; communication; optional and intensive courses;
communicative aims; language functions; language structures, competences;
Europe is not only a geographical location or a historical reality, but also
a community of countries, peoples, languages, customs and traditions, a
multicultural family, to which a well known proverb perfectly fits: “So many
countries, so many customs”. How do we “open the door” leading to today’s
Europe? As part of it, we should feel at ease by communicating to all the
Communication within and throughout the continent/world becomes a matter of
belonging to the same cultural stock, a matter of cultural identity.
Unfortunately, communication is still a problem to be solved in our school.
This is why several questions are to be given fair answers:
Who solves the problem? (school staff)
What do we do to obtain true communication? (learn, practise)
When do we practise it? (according to the timetable and extra)
Where do teachers and students prove it? (in class and not only)
How is it achieved? (class/homework, individual/pair/group work, projects)
Why do we need to communicate to each other? (share human status,
information, ideas, news, feelings, opinions, attitudes, by necessity or by
The European Integration is understood as a phenomenon, a movement, a
process. “To integrate” means to join, to identify oneself with, to
be/become part of, to belong to the same whole. Its dimensions are
geographical, historical, economic, social, political, cultural. The general
framework of the European project implies 3 steps: adapting, adjusting,
conforming, fitting, becoming accustomed to; integration (including
opportunities and risks); compatibility.
There are some conditions to carry out in order to become and remain part of
the project, namely to be in keeping with the European Union regulations and
to share a common set of values, duties, rights, responsibilities, quality
standards and performance-based progress.
One of the most important demands refers to quality in education. Tomorrow’s
information and knowledge-based society has to cope with the on-going
changes and challenges, such as: vast, rapid transformations at continental
and world level; media development; world competition in the labour market;
competences required (including working with the PC); building the national
information understructure; using PC in all domains, on a large scale;
training human resources.
The only possible solution to this new situation is life-long learning.
Any foreign language is an open door to knowledge and makes communication
possible. Why then English as a global language? Leaving aside the cultural
heritage, here are two powerful and topical reasons:
è ~ ¼ of the world population speaks or uses English. It is as clear as the
daylight that English is world-wide spoken.
è ~ 80% of the electronic support information is in English. It is used in
news and, by PC and Internet, enables “no frontier”, fast and comfortable
Since English is in such great demand nowadays, optional and intensive
courses prove to be successful solutions for first foreign language classes.
Take for example “British/American Culture and Civilization” or
“Celebrations, Customs and Traditions”. Let’s run over a list of
communicative aims which should be present in such a syllabus:
- To enrich the students’ knowledge and experience;
- To offer cultural background information about the English-speaking
countries through cross curricular topics;
- To develop cultural empathy and tolerance;
- To acquire new information and vocabulary at a higher level of
- To use new information and vocabulary in different situations and
structures that enable communicative competence by exploiting the four
- To provide practice and opportunities in developing integrated skills by
classroom activities based on students’ needs and interests;
- To make pupils express themselves in a free and enjoyable way;
- To develop the learners’ motivation, interest, confidence, personal
engagement and responsibility in studying English;
- To develop critical thinking, creativity and imagination;
- To support the principles of holistic and active learning and of
- To meet the requirements of the Common European Framework of Reference for
Languages in teaching, learning and assessment.
Let’s now take for example a unit which we shall entitle Narrative
Structures and a group of lessons referring to Telling Stories. Here is a
set of several important language functions:
* Asking/giving information and talking about celebrations in UK and USA;
* Giving instructions and directions (e.g. making a pumpkin, playing Apple
Bobbing, preparing roast turkey following a famous recipe);
* Narrating events in chronological order (e.g. Arthurian legends, The
* Describing people, places, costumes, characters in literary works;
* Acting short dialogues;
* Expressing “for” and “against” opinions in short debates;
* Comparing British/American and Romanian traditions;
* Writing under literary framework, pieces of stories and poetry (with given
beginning, middle, ending)
Some of the language structures that may be required with this kind of
lessons might be the following:
- Past Tense in narrative pieces; connectors for ordering a sequence of
- “Wh-” questions in dialogues;
- Vocabulary used to mark time and place in stories: Once upon a time; They
say; It is said; In the end; They lived happily ever after and so on.
As far as competences are concerned, the teacher should focus on:
* To get the essential information, the main idea from texts they read or
listen to for the first time;
* To take turns in a dialogue on a given topic in close and open pairs;
* To make up a short story by group working;
* To write down personal ideas on the topic under discussion.
As we know, language skills are passive, referring to getting/receiving the
message by listening and reading and active, referring to producing/sending
the message by speaking and writing. Skills have to be integrated during the
lesson, just the way they are to be encountered in real life, in everyday
conversation. It is obvious that we may have a main skill to work on. Take
for example speaking. The reason why we concentrate on it may very well be
to encourage the involvement of all the learners in the practice of spoken
Generally speaking, students enjoy whole class activity, pair and group
work, taking action, learning by acting, playing games, singing, dancing,
doing something either individually, or in a team. From this point of view,
today’s class management should be based on an efficient teacher-student
partnership. Under this favourable circumstance, the teacher’s roles are
those of authority, organizer, adviser, partner giving feedback. To cope
with these roles s/he must be responsible, dedicated, energetic,
enthusiastic. On the other hand, the student’s roles are of listener,
speaker, reader, writer, actor. These roles help him/her to feel and become
confident, challenged, protected, happy, a better person.
It is but natural for each and every teacher to think of the best methods to
get to a positive result at the end of the lesson, unit or school year.
These steps in attaining the activity aims have proved to be successful:
=> Review knowledge on the topic;
=> Enrich it;
=> Achieve progress.
By using the acquired knowledge in new contexts, by solving problems, the
student becomes an independent, creative and responsible teen-ager and later
on a grown-up, ready to face change and challenge, proving a positive
acceptance of his/her own identity, sharing the set of European and world
Modern teaching turns from what the student learns (information, knowledge)
to how s/he learns. Whereas competence is potential knowledge (to know),
performance is carried out competence (to do).
Information is better, long-termed remembered – among other methods – by
means of word webs, cvintets, acrostics. Here are several examples of poems
on two of the topics dealt with during the optional course “Celebrations,
Customs and Traditions”:
Listening, reading, learning,
We discover a magic world,
Playing, joking, laughing,
Putting on funny clothes,
Stories have lived for centuries,
Tell them to the children.
Once upon a time there were a king and a queen,
Realms of dream come to life,
Imagination is the key word,
Everybody likes them,
Save them for your cultural heritage.
Lots of entertainment,
Laughing and playing funny games,
Old Irish tradition,
Witches and wizards go bump in the night,
Eating cloven cookies,
Enjoying the party,
Never sleep at night.
Teachers have to bear in mind a simple “recipe” which says that learning
English should come naturally, avoid stress, be interesting, pleasant,
enjoyable and fun. This means that we must start from our students’ needs,
interests, expectations and make the lesson a leap in knowledge and skill.
1. Neacşu, I. (coord.) “Asigurarea calităţii în educaţie. Valori europene şi
proiecte româneşti”, Galaţi, Ed. Şcoala Gălăţeană, 2005
2. Sheehan Andrew, “The Communicative Approach”, Forum Magazine, USA, 2004
3. Iucu, R., “Formarea cadrelor didactice – Sisteme, politici, strategii”,
Bucureşti, Humanitas Educaţional, 2004
Copyright © Romanian Association of Teachers of English
ISSN 1844 – 6159
Edited by Ovidiu Aniculaese