In this issue:


ISSN 1844 – 6159

Editor's Notes:

There are few things more serious and implacable for a teacher’s progress than his or her cynicism. They may have crippling gaps in their professional training, they may lack the communicative abilities or the popular touch, they may be too harsh or too lenient in their teaching approach, but nothing dooms them as the belief that evil usually prevails, while goodness in its various forms is simply too weak or idealistic to withstand the attack.
For one thing, this deep-felt view may affect one’s own professional development. Teachers may be so convinced that incompetence, political favour and bribery make the school inspectorate tick that they gradually stop even trying to be any different themselves. In the losing battle with evil, cynical teachers cling to an ever smaller sense of superiority to their peers, leaving more and more of their sense of self-worth and self-esteem to a favourable comparison that they silently make between themselves and that exaggerated dark picture they have of colleagues and superiors. In fact, while they focus on pointing the finger of blame, they forget to relate to good professional points of reference and slowly inadvertently drift away into incompetence. Not because they are bad, but because they believe that being good – as they surely still are – does not pay.
Worse still, cynical teachers pass on their faithlessness to those they uninspiringly stand in front of: their students. These youngsters will inevitably learn that the only way to survive is to emulate the winning side, that of evil, whether it involves cheating, avoiding work or imposing fear rather than seeking well-deserved respect.
Cynical teachers may pose as melodramatic victims of a ruthless world, but they in fact become the agents of a self-fulfilling prophecy when they assume the world is much worse than it actually is. Much unlike someone who once prophetically said “Let there be light”, they actually create darkness when they assume the world is a dark place.

Ovidiu Aniculăese, Colegiul Naţional "A.T. Laurian", Botoşani


 Teaching Pre-Adolescence. A Challenge For the Teacher of English
by Elena Cigareanu, Shakespeare School, Bucharest

Key Words: puberty, learning acquisition, language evolution, motivation strategies.

The aim of this article is to provide some useful information for all the teachers that teach pre-adolescents (10-14). This is a stage in their evolution when they have to deal with different problems from the ones they had as children, and so their interest in learning a foreign language may diminish. This is why the teacher has to understand they are going through a delicate period and he also has to find some strategies to motivate them to keep on learning.
The puberty and the adolescence are two of the most important stages in the human development, stages that are characterized by the evolution to maturity and a sort of integration in the adult society, with its social, political, familial and professional expectations. The pre-adolescence is seen as a precursory stage of adolescence.

The major characteristics of puberty or pre-adolescence are:
a full range of physical development and organic transformations
a considerable evolution of the cognitive processes, especially thinking and understanding
a relative growth regarding the independence and autonomy
the intensification of self-consciousness

The most important characteristics of the learning acquisition are:
A great diversification of school subjects, each of them being based on a certain cognitive activity. There is also another important aspect related to this point, meaning the fact that all these new subjects involve a complexity of information and great amount of details which leads to the conclusion that the time and the importance of independent learning grows considerably.
The learning process has to be properly organized and systematic as the student has to face a lot of new teachers with different expectations.
As the cognitive particularities also develop into a new stage, meaning the formal operations stage (according to Piaget’s theory), this means that the student will understand faster if the information is presented in a verbal form, if the teacher speaks a lot with him.
The student’s memory volume also grows due to the level of information.

The most important aspects related to language evolution are:
There is a remarkable increase in the passive vocabulary, reaching a medium of 14000 words at around 14 years old.
The active vocabulary differs from individual to individual, as some of some them live in a language stimulating environment; meanwhile the others are not that lucky.
There shouldn’t be any kind of difficulties regarding the pronunciation of words.
Language evolves a lot during this period as the student becomes part of different groups, they have new colleagues and they have certain slang vocabulary.
The writing speed increases, their handwriting changes a lot, they start to truly understand the grammar rules, and some of them develop artistic skills.

Many of the theories related to pre-adolescence state that one of the most effective ways of determining students to learn a foreign language is to motivate them. This is why the teacher has to find his own strategies of making his students understand the need of individual work and the fact that they have to get actively involved in this task. I will mention next some strategies teachers can use when they have to motivate their students to learn and to get involved in the tasks they have to accomplish:
1. First of all, teacher should have an appropriate behaviour in class and towards their students. This means that he has to show enthusiasm for the course material, to respond immediately when his help is required and also to make his students understand his personal interest in the process of second language acquisition.
2. Secondly, the teacher should be some sort of entertainer for his students and this is why he has to make sure that in the classroom there is a very pleasant and supportive atmosphere.
3. All the materials the teacher brings to his class must be relevant and attractive, to increase their interest on the topic.
4. A teacher has to know some details about his students’ lives and hobbies, and when it is possible, to mention them so that the student feels he is important in this learning context.
5. The teacher could draw learners’ attention to their strengths and abilities.
6. When failure appears, the teacher could encourage learners to explain their failures by the lack of effort and appropriate strategies applied rather than by their insufficient ability.

In conclusion, teenagers have to be motivated to learn, as during this period they understand that they have to learn for a certain goal and that they have to achieve everything based on a conscious effort. This is why the teacher should have a background of motivational strategies in order to determine the student to get involved in the task. On the other hand, the pre-adolescents want to be recognized as group leaders, they want to be the best because, in this way, they will be appreciated by their groups. The teacher has to know how to use this situation in his advantage. Another important aspect for teachers is that in the pre-adolescence, the child is no longer interested in games or learning by means of repetition, he becomes interested in learning by means of verbal structures, music and competitions, or team projects.


1. Tinca Creţu, Psihologia vârstelor, Bucureşti, editura Credis, 2006
2. Zoltan Dorney, Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom, Cambridge Unviresity Press, 2001.
3. Ion–Ovidiu Pânişoară, Profesorul de succes: 59 de principii de pedagogie practică, Iaşi, Polirom, 2009.
4. Ursula Şchiopu, Emil Verza, Psihologia Vârstelor, Ciclurile Vieţii, Bucureşti, Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, 1995.





Creative Activities and Motivating Materials for the EFL Classroom. A Two-week Comenius Grant

by Mariana Andone, Colegiul Naţional „Vasile Alecsandri” Bacău

Key words: Comenius, Maidstone, motivating materials, creative activities, Canterbury, Leeds Castle

I have often wondered why our colleagues were so eager to apply for Comenius grants. And why they went through so much pain to get one. I mean I understand the implications and the opportunities that you are offered, but still I wouldn’t have made such a fuss about it. At some point though I decided to give it a try… and now my perspective has changed dramatically. Now I understand it is like a drug that I finally got myself injected with. So I won’t start my actual presentation until I’ve said that I can hardly wait to apply for a new one.
The mobility I participated in was organized by International Study Programmes, an education-providing institution with local organisers spread all over the UK. My destination was Maidstone the County town of Kent, some 30 miles or so from the capital. I spent one night in London before I went to Maidstone, so I could get a first touch of it, my very first encounter actually with the melting pot. And what an encounter!! I fell in love at once with the people, the places, their inside-out and upside-down style, with their driving on the left-hand side, lousy food, loud teenagers, piercings, funny hairstyles, tattoos.
The streets of London and of the majority of the smaller towns, not excessively clean to tell you the truth, gave you the feeling that you were trapped between two worlds, two different ages, having old red-brick houses in the background, narrow paved streets that still echo the sound of hooves, Victorian shop windows, exquisite architecture of churches and cathedrals. On the other hand, there are people dashing in and out of buildings, always having their junk packed lunches, never looking sideways, the cars, the subway, the trains and buses which never seem to take a break, the famous brand-name shops, or to cut it short… the hustle and bustle of our era. For the uninitiated traveler, this might be confusing, but little by little you start to take it all in.
I left a piece of my heart in London and headed for Maidstone the next day. Maidstone is equally British in appearance but much calmer. I fell for it right away and spent my first days observing every detail, watching faces and gestures so as to get a clear feel of the place and its people. A wonderful experience. Apart from groups of really loud teenagers, a critical age in Britain as it appears, people of other ages were relaxed, calm, smiling and really eager to help you when in trouble.
The course started on Monday and it was pretty intensive, with classes beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 4.30 p.m (a real pain in the neck, as most shops close at 5 p.m. in Maidstone) with a 1-hour lunch break in between. We had two tutors in the first two days, Lucy and Chris. The next three days were entirely coordinated by Chris. They are real globe-trotters who have taught in countries and places one can hardly imagine. The focus of the courses was on the latest trends in the British education system, ways of approaching English classes dependent on the skills to be taught, games to stimulate the students’ interest and boost their motivation.
There were 30 teachers attending the course, myself included, coming from various countries such as Italy (most of them were Italians), Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Reunion. We were spilt in groups of 15 for the first 2 days, which was great, because, as I noticed later on, teachers can be as noisy and disturbing as their much younger students. Lucy and Chris tailored some very interesting and attractive workshops. Lucy suggested activities which involved motion as in most cases we have to deal with very static activities and students could get bored faster. She proposed alternatives to multiple-choice questions, to the static expression of one’s opinion. Also, her workshops centred on ways of bringing students’ creativity in the spotlight, by creating their own artistic response to a certain type of written input. Such responses may refer to making a drawing, a collage, doing a project etc. More often than not we tend to concentrate on factual information more than we care about what the written or recorded text has stirred within the student. For example, we were given a newspaper article about a teenager who was taken in by a Facebook partner who proved to be a woman disguising herself as a man and dated girls she/he met on the Internet. The article followed the story up to the imprisonment of the impostor, running parallel with the duped girls’ feelings of remorse and disgust. The task was to work in groups and choose six moments in the story to illustrate on a large piece of paper. Although this may appear more suitable to younger students, Lucy explained that this is a complex activity which includes all four skills while at the same time covering every stage in Bloom’s taxonomy, adapted by Anderson and Sosniak in 1994: Remembering-Understanding-Applying-Analysing-Evaluating-Creating. Lucy’s other workshops included activities of creative writing adapted to the A2-B1 levels of the CEF, such as The Sandwich Story Technique, Same Event – different points of view, Different ways of thinking about the same objects etc.
Chris was in charge of the advanced vocabulary workshops, so we did a series of activities on teaching phrasal verbs, collocations, verbs referring to the sounds things make, which proved to be challenging and motivating at the same time.
The next three days were more tiring and less compact because we were no longer split in groups of 15. So I realized that a class of 30 teachers can be as annoying and disruptive as a class of 30 students when they start fiddling and fidgeting. Not that the activities were not appealing enough, but 30 teachers can have 30 different reasons for attending such a course, many of which might not be related to the desire to learn something new. Anyway, we discussed the challenges that a teacher feels, common and different aspects of our various systems of education. The workshops gave us the opportunity to remember many things that we already knew and learn new things as well. We went through a PPP grammar lesson and adjusted it to the new Test-Teach-Test pattern. The tutor emphasized the importance of creating an adequate context and of checking the students’ understanding of the new structures through content-related questions which are meant to avoid the less effective “Did you understand?” We also dealt with vocabulary lessons, contests that we can organize during the classes, songs that we can use in order to teach elements of grammar and vocabulary, literary extracts that can be used with lower ability classes and which can prompt us to create new and varied activities.
These were the positive aspects of the workshops. The downside is that many teachers felt that some activities were not applicable during their classes, due to the level of their students. Another disadvantage consisted of the large number of teachers of different levels and interests. Although we were asked to mention our expectations before we even got there, I feel that those expectations were not actually minded. Chris did his best to satisfy all needs, but this turned the workshops into a rally race that was too difficult to follow at some point. Also, we were advised to bring our laptops, but no one, besides Lucy (on request) gave us any material to copy on our laptops. So, I wouldn’t advise anyone to take it, unless they know for sure they are going to use it. We did receive many paper handouts which added to the weight of our luggage. Towards the end of the week the other teachers started losing their patience, which made it difficult for us to bear with Chris and the infinite number of activities that he handed out. I would probably have expected fewer and more consistent activities. But Chris didn’t mind anything and kept on doing his job like a Russian tank on the battlefield.
At the weekend we visited the surrounding areas, such as Tunbridge with its small church whose windows were painted by the famous Russian painter Chagall, Tunbridge Wells, a small tourist resort, Hastings and Battle, very important in British history due to the Battle of Hastings (1066), a crucial moment in the Norman Conquest. We also visited Rye, a fairly small town with a fantastic cathedral.
Also, on Sunday, we had the chance to visit Canterbury on really nice weather. We went on a guided tour of the famous town, which I think should be called a city since it has two universities. We strolled on the narrow streets and tried to remember Chaucer’s tales so as to get a deeper understanding of the place. We attended the afternoon service in the cathedral, which was not as crowded as I had thought. We learned a lot of new things about the history of Canterbury since our guide was a former history teacher.
On week two we visited two schools, one of which was a boarding school in Rochester, King’s College, with students of all nationalities. I even met a half Romanian there who of course knew no Romanian word, except for a stuttered “Multumesc”. They were really nice and bright students who had passed their GCSEs and were now studying for their A-levels. With only about 10 students in a class, it was a real delight to visit the school. I especially liked the German Lab which was really well-equipped and probably a pleasure to work in. The Chemistry lab was not very impressive, which was a bit puzzling if you take into account that every student pays quite large tuition fees (about 24,000 pounds a year, boarding included). We attended a Geography class, a Chemistry class, Religious Studies, Business Studies and Arts. I could notice that the students are not bombed with loads of information during one class only; on the contrary, they focus on fewer things and try to stick to them, which is more effective in the long run I guess.
The second school was Cornwallis Academy, twenty minutes away from Maidstone by bus. Unfortunately, there was some misunderstanding between the school head and our local organiser and we weren’t able to spend a full day there. As a bonus, we got to visit Leeds Castle, which was astonishing. Peaceful, relaxing, a piece of paradise on earth. Very well-kept, but one cannot expect otherwise if they have to pay an entrance fee of 18 pounds. Cornwallis was impressive as far as equipment and design are concerned. It is an academy financially supported by Microsoft, so you can easily guess what kind of equipment they had inside. A real school of the future. Students as many as 60 in one large space called “plaza” worked in groups, while being coordinated and supervised by two teachers at the same time. We attended an English class where they did nothing else but illustrate a poem, just like we did on Lucy’s workshop with the story of the teenage girl tricked on FB. They had huge overhead projectors and everybody could see the tasks clearly. The teachers were monitoring them and assisted them in case they were needed. Being such a large school, a comprehensive state school, the teachers and students were a bit colder and more reluctant to see us, so we didn’t feel very welcome there. Plus, the school is not something usual or common In the UK, so I would have preferred a regular one instead. But things ended pretty quickly so we made the most out of the day by visiting the Leeds Castle.
On Thursday we were given the certificates and had a lecture about the British system of education, with feedback from us based on what we saw on the school visits. In fact, I was so tired and worried about a missing signature on my Mobility Pass that I couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest. We handed in our feedback forms and then bid farewell to Rita, the local organiser. On Thursday evening I left Maidstone and headed for London. I spent Friday and Saturday morning there and caught my flight back in the afternoon.
All in all, the British experience was very enriching. I love observing people and noticing their behavior, so the British people provided me with brand new material for my “research”. I loved every bit of my stay there, with its ups and downs and I can’t wait to apply again next year. As a teacher of English, I am grateful for the opportunity to visit the UK for the first time and hoping I don’t become too slushy and won’t be accused of other intentions I would like to thank the National Agency for it and especially the people working there, who have proved to be very supportive so far and promptly helped me with any piece of information I needed.
I advise everybody to jump at this chance, because such mobilities really broaden your horizons and change you for the better – academically, socially, personally and interpersonally. Invite all your colleagues to apply, because, even if there is some amount of paper work, it is really worth giving it a try.

Continuous Teacher Training through Comenius Individual Grants

by Marilena Marinescu, School No. 18 Pitesti


Keywords: Comenius, professional development through continuous teacher training, current trends in methodology, modern, up-to-date teaching techniques and activities, stimulating creativity, motivating pupils.

Continuing professional development is the process which ensures that all educational staff can, at each stage of their career, develop their knowledge, improve their skills and enhance their confidence and motivation to affect pupil learning positively.
The aim of this article is to present a material concerning the importance of continuous training for teachers in order to enhance their professional development as well as to provide a wide range of information about Comenius- individual mobility and to present the numerous advantages of attending such training courses.
I have applied for a Comenius individual mobility grant and as a result in 2011from 17th to 30th July I attended a teacher training course offered by The University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.

The teacher training course was called 'Methodology and Language for Secondary Teachers', it lasted for two weeks and it was organized by Pilgrims English Language Courses in Canterbury, UK. Fourteen teachers from countries such as Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Austria, Italy, Poland and Romania attended this training course, sharing their experience and teaching ideas.
There were sixty-four hours of intense methodology and language teaching activities, which offered the participants a wide range of modern teaching methods and didactic activities, with the purpose of enhancing the teaching repertoire and stimulating creativity and the critical thinking of the participants.

Secondary school teaching has similarities and differences throughout the world. On this course, I had the opportunity to share my experiences with other teachers and with Pilgrims trainers. While the course gave me an opportunity to improve my own English, it also focused far more on methodology in Secondary school teaching.


The courses also considered the relevance for Secondary teaching of recent ideas in the teaching of English as a foreign language as well as how 'traditional' ideas can be used creatively. Each applicant had to send in an action plan four weeks before the course outlining hopes and objectives for achievement as a result of attending the course. I was taught how to prepare interesting lessons for a variety of teaching situations including mixed ability and large classes, reflecting on my own teaching situation and developing myself both professionally and personally. I was encouraged to re-assess my teacher beliefs and attitudes in the light of current trends in methodology.

The programme of the training activities included:
• Ways of presenting and practising grammar and vocabulary
• Using music, story, pictures and drama in teaching
• Ideas for encouraging learner independence in the class
• Dealing with different learning styles
• Ideas to encourage pair/group work at different levels
• Work on pronunciation and the learning of its components
• Adapting/supplementing course book materials
• Using texts for different purposes
• Ideas for assessment/testing
• Practical classroom issues for teachers working in a monolingual context
• Dealing with ‘difficult behaviour’.

Among the numerous teaching methods and activities learnt mention can be made of: ‘Packing’, ‘The Scarf’, ‘The Left/Right Story’ and many others.
‘Packing’ is a game in which the chairs are arranged in a circle. You need one chair less than the number of students. Draw a huge suitcase in the middle of the circle. Ss sit on the chairs except for one, who stands in the middle. (S)he is the ‘traveller’, who is packing his/her suitcase. Ss choose an object people may take with them on their holiday. They will represent these objects. The S in the middle calls the objects. The person whose object has been called has to stand where you have drawn the suitcase. It goes on like this until the ‘traveller’ chooses to stop. Then (s)he says, ‘All right. I have packed everything. Let's go.’ When students hear ‘go’, they all run and try to sit down on a chair. The one left without a chair will ‘pack’ the next ‘suitcase’.
In ‘The Scarf’ the person who has the scarf can use his or her imagination and mime anything which is creative and fun. The other pupils have to guess what the pupil with the scarf has mimed. If it is correct, then he can take the scarf and mime something else.

The course provided me and all the participants with state of the art theories and practices in teaching Secondary students. As a result of attending this course, I became a more confident, creative and knowledgeable teacher of Secondary students.
I recommend applying for Comenius individual mobility and taking part in teacher training courses in the U K and not only because it is a great opportunity for teachers who want to become familiar with the most up-to-date teaching techniques and to be the best teachers for their students.

Here is some useful information for those who want to apply:
• http://www.anpcdefp.ro
• http://ec.europa.eu/education/trainingdatabase (courses for teachers)
• www.englishjet.com (e-books, games, songs, newspapers)
• www.angelsonline.net (activities for pupils)
• www.bbc.co.uk/learning
• www.teachingenglish.org.uk
Email: lizzie@pilgrims.co.uk

1. Popa, E. ‘Aspects of Theory and Practice in Teaching English as a Foreign Language’, Hermann Press, Sibiu, 1995
2. Scott, A. W., Ytreberg, H.J. ‘Teaching English to Children’, Longman, 1994.
3. Scrivener, J. ‘Learning Teaching’, Heinemann, 1994.



Learning Strategies. Assessment and Training in EFL classes

by Cătălina Ecaterina Bălţăteanu, Şcoala cu clasele I-VIII Ţuţora, Iaşi

Keywords: self-access resource centres, learner-centred instruction, learner training,

Key words: learning strategy instruction, Strategy Inventory for Language Learning, retrospective interviews, stimulated recall interview, note-taking, questionnaires

Implementing learning strategy instruction in the classroom depends on teachers` and learners` beliefs in the efficiency of strategy use, on the classroom context and management, but also on the students` prior cultural or educational background in either teacher-centred or students-centred contexts.
Speaking about students` previous experience (both in foreign languages and other subjects), strategy instruction should start by identifying and diagnosing students` current learning strategies (assuming that all students have their favourite ways of learning) and by making them aware of their existence. At the same stage, teachers must identify the differences in learning strategies used by more or less successful language learners. A next step is to identify the most suitable approach to providing instruction in language learning strategies. Eventually, teachers must analyze whether their instruction in language strategies has the expected impact on language proficiency and progress in foreign language learning.
According to Rebecca Oxford, teachers generally want to identify language learning strategies used by their learners for the following reasons :
•because of personal interest;
•for orienting the teaching practices;
•for offering feedback to their students on their strategy use;
•for anticipating strategy training;
Since language strategies are especially mental processes and are not directly observable in terms of external behaviour, the most appropriate method of investigating them is through learners` self-reports, including interviews, strategies brainstorming for various language tasks, group discussions, open-ended or closed questionnaires, note-taking, self-report surveys, diaries and dialogue journals, or think-aloud protocols.
However, observation can be used as a method of gathering information about language strategies use if cooperating with peers, asking for clarification or verification, taking-notes and other observable behaviours are taken into consideration. Through observation, strategies may be recorded either by taking notes or by checking off those identified in a certain period. Another aspect that should be considered is the use of strategies by the whole group, by a small group of students, or by one student.
In the case of retrospective interviews (interviews involving self-observation ), learners are supposed to reflect on a recently completed task or on one they are familiar with and say what they generally do in order to perform it. The questions may be either open-ended (What do you do when you are listening and you hear an unknown word?) or close, specific (When you are listening and you hear an unknown word, do you make guesses about its meaning or just keep listening?). This type of interviews seems to be very flexible since the interviewer may ask follow-up questions, provide explanations if something is not sufficiently clear, or even comment on the learner’s answer. One disadvantage of this method is that it can be applied to a group of three or four students whose comments can influence their answers and sincerity. Moreover, willing to make a good impression, students might mention strategies that they never use but are preferred by their teachers or by the good language learners.
Another form of having access to the learners` thinking processes is by applying a stimulated recall interview ”immediately after the student has engaged in a learning task” , which leads to a more accurate description of the learning strategies. The task is generally videotaped and the learner is asked to comment on his or her thoughts at particular moments during the task.
Note-taking is another self-report technique that asks learners to write down their difficulties when performing a task, or to take notes on a grid about the strategies they use. Then they are supposed to analyze the frequency of the strategies use, their usefulness and efficiency.
Questionnaires also help collect information about learners` use of learning strategies. One of the best known and most applied questionnaires was designed in 1989 by Rebecca Oxford and it is entitled Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL). It is an instrument which classifies strategies as cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, social and affective and which adopts a general approach, without relating students` use of learning strategies to particular contextualized tasks. Besides being easy to administer and to gather information from large numbers of individuals for quantitative comparisons, questionnaires indicate the frequency with which learners use a particular strategy. The disadvantages of this method are that learners may not understand a question, or that they may want to give ”the right answer”, the socially desirable one.
Diaries or journals are subjective and free-form self-reports that allow learners to freely express their thoughts, feelings, worries, fears, difficulties, achievements, as well as their impressions of peers, native speakers, teachers and the learning process in general, with all its variables.
Think-aloud protocols represent a technique through which a person expresses verbally his or her thoughts while working on a task . It is a one-to-one interview, which is recorded, transcribed and then analyzed in terms of language strategies use. While performing the task, the learner may be asked open-ended questions like ”What are you thinking right now?”. One of the shortcomings of this technique is the presence of the interviewer that might affect the behaviour of the learner and his responses.
These are some of the forms of descriptive studies carried in the field of learning strategies and aiming at the identification of learners` language strategies. In general, descriptive studies may be followed by intervention studies whose focus is to provide explicit classroom-instruction on language learning strategies and to measure their effects on learners` achievement level, especially in areas such as performance on tests, increase in the use of strategies, attitudes towards language learning and self-efficacy.
Strategy training, also called “learner training”, learning-to-learn training”, “learner methodology training”, or “methodological initiation for learners” is intended to help learners learn more effectively, dealing also with their feelings and beliefs about speaking a foreign language. Practical strategy training is essential since learners must know how to effectively learn, whereas teachers must know how to facilitate this process, their main objectives being to:
•provide meaningful learning;
•enhance collaboration between learner and teacher;
•discover and practice strategies that lead to self-direction in learning;
•familiarize learners with options for language learning.
Studies have revealed that learning strategies instruction in the classroom calls for special instruction, support and practice. Attending language learning strategy sessions at professional development workshops and conferences, observing model lessons, coaching, as well as consulting resource guides are just some ways of understanding how teaching learning strategies functions. In the United States even a learning strategies curriculum was implemented, pilot-tested and revised according to feedback from students and teachers. The result of this study was that students enjoyed activities based on learning strategies, that they reacted differently to different strategies and that too many strategies presented at once led to confusion and failure in performing a task.
The difficulty of implementing learning strategy instruction in the classroom consists in the following aspects:
•it should be integrated into the regular course work, not treated separately;
•it should take into account the needs and levels of the learners;
•it should explicitly name, model and describe the strategies;
•it implies new teacher and learner roles, the former becoming more a facilitator than a director;
•there should be an appropriate scope and sequence of strategies for different levels.
According to Rebecca Oxford, there are three types of strategy training :
•awareness training, also called consciousness-raising or familiarization training, is intended to familiarize learners with the use and usefulness of strategies, without involving them in actual, concrete language tasks;
•one-time strategy training combines learning and practicing strategies with language tasks; however, this is a short-term training, related to particular and very precise strategies that can be taught in a few sessions;
•long-term strategy training, like one-time training, involves learning and practicing strategies in on-the-spot language tasks, with the difference that it covers more strategies and is more prolonged.
The same author provides a model for long-term strategy training including planning and preparation, implementation, evaluation and revision. All these steps are summarized in the following eight steps:
•establish the learners` needs, strengths and weaknesses, and the amount of time available;
•select the strategies to be taught according to the needs and features of the learners;
•integrate strategy training with the tasks, objectives and materials used in the language programme;
•take into account motivational issues;
•prepare materials (handouts, handbook) and activities that are interesting for the learners, or let them choose;
•conduct completely informed training which tells the learners why strategies are important, how they can be transferred to other tasks, or how they can evaluate the success of a particular strategy;
•evaluate the strategy training through observation and learners` own comments about task improvement, skills and attitudes improvement, or transfer of strategy to other tasks;
•revise the strategy training, including the materials.
Besides methodological training opportunities in the classroom, other models of learner training include textbook embedded training , practical self-help guides, and learning centers. As far as the first model is concerned, more and more textbooks combine language content with the study and utilization of learning strategies. The English textbook from which the other samples have been provided includes not only activities that involve strategies, but also explicit “learn to learn” parts that raise students` awareness of strategy use and usefulness.

Source: Harris, Michael, Mower, David (1997). World Class, Longman, UK, p. 38

Source: Harris, Michael, Mower, David (1997). World Class, Longman, UK, p. 67

Assigning or recommending self-help guides to students is another way of making them aware of learning strategies. They include information, tips and exercises about the successful use of strategies. Learning centres provide learners with outside-the-classroom assistance in all the four language skills, as well as in study skills, aiming at the development of their strategic competence in language learning.
Despite the troublesome character of strategy instruction, studies have revealed that it has positive effects on students, helping them better understand the target language, become more active and more responsible. Moreover, due to strategy instruction, learners` motivation for language learning seemed to improve, as well as the independent use of strategies.


[i] Benson, Phil (2001). Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Language Learning, Pearson, London, p. 10

[ii]Jiao, Lijuan (2005). Promoting EFL Learner Autonomy. Retrieved from http://www.linguist.org.cn/doc/su2005/su20050506.pdf

[iii] Schmenk, Barbara (2005). Globalizing Learner Autonomy in TESOL Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 1, p. 110

[iv] Thanasoulas, Dimitrios (2002). What is Learner Autonomy and How Can It be Fostered? in The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 11, November 2000. Retrieved from http://iteslj.org/Articles/Thanasoulas-Autonomy.html

[v] Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003). Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Teaching, Yale University, New Haven,    p. 133

[vi] Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003).  op. cit., p. 144

[vii] Jiao, Lijuan (2005). Promoting EFL Learner Autonomy. Retrieved from http://www.linguist.org.cn/doc/su2005/su20050506.pdf

[viii] Benson, Phil (2001). op. cit., p. 12

[ix] ibidem, p. 14

[x] Richards, C. Jack (2002). 30 Years of TEFL/TESL – A Personal Reflection in RELC Journal, vol. 33, no. 2, p. 15. Retrieved from http://rel.sagepub.com



  Developing students' language and culture awareness

by Iria Creţu, Şcoala nr. 13, Botoşani

  stages, instructions, key features, linguistically aware teacher

"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 mere '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 metacognitive 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 understanding, 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-recording, learner diaries, group or individual questionnaires.
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 awareness raising activities;
• the induction of language awareness activities to tasks aimed at increasing 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 asking questions)
• the avoidance of the mother tongue, often resulting in either oversimplification procedures on the part of the teacher or comprehension problems on the part of students;
• the tendency to emphasize individual work and teacher directed interaction." (Vieira, Language awareness and language learning, 1991, p. 15)
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 confidence .
2. Language awareness has:
• a cognitive dimension (it encourages thinking at various levels of various types)
• an affective dimension (it engages and evolves attitudes and values)
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:
• educational/developmental;
• 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 inquirer 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.
Competences of linguistically aware teacher
"A linguistically aware teacher will be able to accomplish various tasks: preparing lessons, evaluating, adapting and writing materials, understanding, 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 awareness 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 - 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.

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 Sloganeering in Education. Biases and Fallacies in Didactic Communication

by Gabriela Pachia, Master in Journalism, Colegiul Naţional Bănăţean, Timişoara

Key words: bias, communication, education, fallacy, sloganeering, social psychology

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Alan Kay

The sciences of communication reveal the mechanisms of the social influence phenomena – “the art of influencing” and “the art of communicating”. On the grounds of the systemic theory of communication, also making use of comprehensive analysis, we have investigated the field of didactic communication with a view to identify persuasion, manipulation, empathy, as well as the biases, fallacies, and the blockages in communication, making themselves manifest particularly in the form of sloganeering. As a good communicator, the teacher of English ought to spot and thwart the “viruses” in communication, resorting to the psycho
-pedagogical foundations of communication since “we are not creatures of circumstance, we are creators of circumstance” (Benjamin Disraeli). Our paper aims at classifying and exemplifying group and individual biases and fallacies which characterise didactic communication due to its high levels of subjectivity, “truthfulness”, and to the frequency of sloganeering. Examples from daily-biased sentences are offered with the hope of restoring communication to its genuine condition.
Social influence envisages the generation of new – both positive and negative – significances through a multitude of processes and phenomena such as compliance, persuasion, normalisation, obedience, imitation, manipulation etc. For motivationists, “«good communication» means the communication which engenders a wish, a motivation or a profound need, and which, almost without the subject’s knowledge, will make him «move» towards the object of his wishes” (MuccAc, 25). According to the formal-transactional paradigm, communication becomes a ‘game’, a “system of recurrent transactions, superficially plausible, with hidden motivations” (MuccAc, 32), which employs stratagems to cause the interlocutors “«to enter the game» and to play a complementary role” (MuccAc, 31). From the point of view of the systemic-relational paradigm, groups, families, institutions are considered ‘ill’ if their rigid games place the participants in the position of subordinates / complementaries, i.e. schismogenesis (MuccAc, 44): dominator / dominee, teacher / pupil, adult / child or teenager, master / disciple etc. The praxeological-phenomenal paradigm emphasises the permanent collective reconstruction of the world, through empathy, stating that “we build the world, we do not perceive it” (Palo Alto NLP, Apud MuccAc, 57). Interpersonal communication requires deep knowledge of social psychology, the constructivist-situationist perspective distinguishing between seven fundamental contexts which create meaning: space, the physical and sensorial context, time, the actors’ relative positions, the immediate sociorelational context, the cultural and the expressive contexts. Accordingly, teachers must positively change the meaning attributed to a situation to effect a change in behaviour, by creating ‘affectional «proximity»’ (e.g. ‘school is the place where I feel fine, I can affirm my personality and skills, I can improve myself, I have a wide circle of friends / coworkers, I am appreciated and rewarded’). As a consequence, communication as social interaction is “an instrument of human action” (MuccAc, 245).
The “prejudices” / “biases” / “errors” / preconceived ideas / a priori / “sophisms” / false beliefs of communication display a subjective character – the so-called “unacknowledged favouritism” –, leading to both self-deception and miscommunication. Broadly speaking, there are confirmation / validation prejudices (e.g. ‘I believe so because I want things to be my way’) and systemic prejudices (e.g. wrong evaluation), to be found in the following fields: cognitive (statistics, memory errors, wrong attribution), inductive / logical (“minimum description length”: ‘the simplest solution is the best’; “minimum features”: unessential features should be eliminated; “maximum margin”: groups, classes or forms can be obviously delineated; “nearest neighbours”: the neighbouring elements are similar to each other; the “perfect solution fallacy”: since no solution is perfect, it is not worth tackling any solution), media, statistics (students are frequently the subject of media investigation, being overrepresented in surveys).
The cognitive biases distort reality, arising from localism, one’s native environment, loyalty requirements (e.g. “representativeness heuristic”: judging from similar cases or experiences) and being characteristic of groups (“the risky shift”; “ingroup bias” and “outgroup homogeneity bias”: the group members are more highly regarded than the outsiders; “déformation professionnelle”: the excuse of small-scale perspective; “rank-based organisation”: reward is proportional to one’s hierarchical position – Nielsen, 2004) or of individuals (“fundamental attribution error”; “actor-observer bias”; “group attribution error”; “positivity effect”; “negativity effect”; “overconfidence effect”; “negative proof”; “argument from ignorance”: things are real since they have not proved to be false). Biases and fallacies may affect:
• decision making (“selective perception”; “illusory correlation”; “loss aversion”: since a loss is twice stronger than a gain; “endowment effect” / “divestiture aversion”; “hyperbolic discounting”: the preference for immediate rewards, however small they might be; “framing”; “hindsight bias” / “‘I-knew-it-all-along’ effect”: past events seem predictible; “impact bias”: overestimating future events; “pseudocertainty effect”; “wishful thinking”; “bandwagon effect” / “herd behaviour” / “groupthink”; “reactance”: the tendency to do the opposite of requested things; “extreme aversion”; “illusion of control”; “focusing effect”; “planning fallacy”: underestimating dead-ends; “information bias”: ‘knowledge is power’);
• memory (“anchoring” in the past; the “egocentric bias”; “choice-supportive bias”: exaggerating former decisions; “consistency bias”: incorrect rememoration of the past; “rosy retrospection”; “beneffectance”; “suggestibility”: suggestions are taken for memories);
• motivation (“hot cognition” versus “cold cognition”; “self-serving bias” / “self-directing bias”: greater appreciation of one’s success than one’s failure; “illusion of asymmetric insight”: the belief that one has better insight of the other people than vice versa; “mere exposure effect”: preference is based on familiarity and repeated visualisation);
Several biases and fallacies develop in areas such as:
• probability and beliefs (“attention effect”; “ambiguity effect”; “clustering illusion”: presupposed connections where they do not exist; “ludic fallacy”: reality is but a game; “optimism fallacy”; “overconfidence effect”; “positive outcome bias” / “wishful thinking”: expecting a positive outcome; “gambler’s fallacy”; “conjunction fallacy”; “primacy and recency effect”; “reminiscence bump”: recalling events from youth; “telescoping effect”: reversing time distances to events; “stereotypy”; “spotlight effect” etc.;
• “social biases” / “attribution biases” (“halo effect”; “projection effect”; “the just world” phenomenon: people get what they deserve; “notational bias”; “group-serving bias”; “self-fulfilling prophecy”: adopting the bevavioural patterns which confirm our beliefs; “system justification”; “trait ascription bias”: assuming that the others are predictable;
• “logic of emotions” (“appeal to emotion”: ‘school belongs to children’; “appeal to consequence”: ‘clonation is useful; “appeal to fear”; “fear, uncertainty and doubt”: ‘if you do not graduate from a great college, you will not find a decent job / you will remain poor’; “appeal to flattery”: ‘an intelligent student like you will certainly understand’; “appeal to pity”: ‘if you give me an 8, my final mark will never be 10’, ‘I need a 10, otherwise my mum will give my puppy away’; “appeal to ridicule”; “appeal to spite”: ‘Why do you take part in the competition? The teacher will never give you more than 8!’; “wishful thinking”: ‘My new classmate speaks English so well! I think he will be my friend!’;
Sloganeering in education is often based on biases or fallacies as mentioned before: “Less is more”, “Get them interested!”, “Put first things first!”, “Create synergy in the classroom!”, “Treat all students fairly!”, “Every school a good school!”, “Excellence in education”, “quality education”, “To really educate, teach Values!”, “The best course of action is that which benefits the most people”. They are deeply grounded in the students’, the parents’ and the teachers’ minds and are easily detected during the English classes, too:
• “knowledge is power”;
• “students in cities learn English better than those in the countryside”;
• “you will never learn English properly since it is a foreign language”;
• “if you belong to a good form, you will be a good student”;
• “twins speak English in the same manner so they should have the same mark”;
• “if you start learning English properly, you will finally be an excellent student”;
• “learn English the emotional way”;
• “descriptive essays are hard to write”;
• “funny students are always rewarded”;
• “I do not want to learn English because my former teachers neglected me”;
• “I did not deserve that bad mark!”;
• “each student gets what he deserves”;
• “teachers never listen”;
• “my former students were much better in English”;
• “I am just a teacher of English”;
• “English portfolios are a waste of time”;
• “English will help you in life”;
• “you are preparing for your future”;
• “I can speak English, but I can’t write”;
• “I like English very much / more than other languages”;
• “the teachers of English are different from the rest”;
• “I am not stressed during the English classes”;
• “where there is a will there is a way”;
• “think positively!”;
• “I shall never forget my English teacher”;
• “I have learnt so much for the evaluation paper in English”;
• “students used to read more English books”;
• “English has nothing to do with French or Latin”;
• “if education is expensive, try ignorance”;
• “the costs of education can be reduced” etc.
Unfortunately, slogans generate ambiguity, frustration, and resentment – W. Edwards Deming denounced mottoistic slogans –, in spite of their apparent lofty intentions and motivational power, due to the fact that they hide logically questionable statements. Building identity in our complex world may easily be biased by the wrong assumptions, by slogans which abound in every aspect of our everyday life. Nowadays, the teachers’ task increases to follow the most recent developments in social psychology, having to reconsider communication as “a meaning-generating relationship” (MuccAc, 15), “creating an intersubjective world which should serve intercomprehension” (MuccAc, 71).


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  The Teacher as Class Manager. Dealing with Problem Behavior

By Mihaela Dascălu, Şcoala de Arte
şi Meserii Argetoaia, Dolj

Keywords: teacher, manager, behavior, rules

It is common knowledge that what actually makes teaching challenging and at the same time extremely demanding is not the mere activity of transmitting new information, but the teacher’s ability to establish a strong, communication-based relationship with their students. Maintaining good order in classrooms and dealing with problem behavior is one of the most difficult tasks facing young inexperienced teachers, such as myself. The task has become more difficult over the past few decades as young people's attitudes to people in authority have changed dramatically. Some of the changes have led to greater self-confidence in students- a self-confidence which, to a certain extent, is of great use for the teacher himself. Others - such as the acceptance of violence to achieve ends, attitudes to substance abuse and an increasing lack of respect for authority - have made classroom management and life in school generally more difficult, and more demanding, on those who are charged with maintaining a positive learning environment.
Problem behavior from students can take many forms, from disruptive talking, tardiness and poor attendance to cheating in tests and unwillingness to speak in the target language. It is nonetheless true that the students’ personalities and behavior are closely bound up with their levels of self-esteem – how they feel about themselves and the level of self-confidence they are experiencing. Many disruptive behaviors in the classroom can be alleviated before they become serious discipline problems. Such behaviors can be reduced by the teacher's ability to employ effective organizational practices which are at the heart of the teaching process and are essential to establishing and maintaining classroom control.
In like manner, the first encounter between the teacher and the students might be quite misleading, especially for inexperienced teachers; this is when the students formulate their impressions of the teacher. Students sit quietly, raise their hands to respond and are generally well behaved. The teacher is easily misled into thinking that this is an ideal class and may relax their vigilance. However, within a week or so, some students will begin to test the waters to see what they can "get away with"; this is an attitude that I have noticed within the first weeks of my activity as a teacher. It is during this period that the effective teacher - a teacher that we all aim and train to be - should establish the expected ground-rules for classroom behavior.
Establishing a set of classroom rules to guide the behavior of students at once is of utmost importance. Discuss the rationale of these rules with the students to ensure they understand and see the need for each rule. Keep the list of rules short. The rules most often involve paying attention, respect for others, excessive noise, securing materials and completion of homework assignments. Though some of the students may consider these rules a sheer formality, it is the teacher who must make sure to apply them whenever necessary.
I have noticed that calling a student by his or her name early in the year gives him an increased sense of well being; moreover the student’s self-confidence is increased, provided that we deal with aloof, sometimes hostile students (especially teenagers). This way of dealing with students also gives a teacher greater control of situations. Nonetheless, a teacher can be firm yet still be supportive and friendly with students despite the fact that sometimes we find it difficult not to lose our temper. A firm teacher can provide an environment where the students feel safe and secure. Many teachers report that it is easier to begin the year in a firm manner and relaxed later, than to begin in a relaxed manner and then try to become firm.
In addition to this , when we plan our classes we need to think how we can engage students in a reading or listening activity before starting detailed work, this way introducing topics that are relevant for our students’ experience.
“Praise is better than blame”, some researchers stated about four decades ago (Madsen et al 1968) and I myself have noticed it when dealing with disruptive, uncooperative students. When they are told off for their inappropriate behavior, it had little effect. However, even ‘difficult’ students responded extremely positively when they were praised for appropriate behavior; but praise has to be offered in the right way and for good reasons if it is to be effective.
In order to act according to the above-mentioned guidelines, it is essential that teachers be thoroughly prepared. It is good preparation that gives the teacher time to be proactive that is to be able to anticipate the students’ problematic behavior as far as possible. This teacher doesn’t have to scramble between classes setting up materials, printing copies in the office, and hurriedly writing instructions on the board. He or she has enough time to observe her students so that she knows who is angry and likely to vent that anger soon. The proactive teacher has planned her lessons so that she has a few minutes at the end of each period to get things ready for her next class before passing time.
Proactive classroom control begins with setting the tenor in your room in the first few minutes, before behaviors can become problems. If you miss the opportunity for a smooth, controlled start, you will spend more of your time trying to calm things down and regain control.
By following a routine that the students can count on, the proactive teacher heads off many discipline problems that the reactive teacher faces daily. Students arrive to class over the course of several minutes during passing time, but the children go right to work on a daily start up activity when they enter the room. The reactive teacher is trying to get attention when the bell rings. He starts the period by interrupting "free time."
In a nutshell, whether we work in primary, secondary or high-school we will all experience problem groups and encounter problem behavior at some time in our teaching careers. More often than not, the problem is minor and can be easily dealt with, especially if we can refer to a previously established code of conduct, and if our responses to discipline are based on solid principles and strategies.


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 Chuck the Textbook! Role Plays: Developing Fluency, Accuracy and Complexity in Speaking

by Raluca Sârghie, Dr. I. Meşotă National College, Braşov

Keywords: different contexts, challenge, spontaneity, mock trial, role cards.

A major issue that continues to challenge language teachers is how to ensure that students develop accuracy and complexity in their speaking, as well as fluency in a variety of different situations while keeping their interest alive.

Another challenge is that in large classes talkative students tend to dominate and the quieter ones do not get the chance to speak. Some of these students are also inhibited when using a foreign language in front of their class-mates and they worry about making mistakes and about being laughed at. Even if they have to talk, they try to speak as briefly as possible. However, in a role-play activity they cannot avoid answering questions and in this way they are actually compelled to talk. Jeremy Harmer (2001) considers that role plays are particularly effective because: “they allow hesitant students to be more forthright in their opinions and behaviour than they might be when speaking for themselves, since they do not have to take the same responsibility for what they are saying.” (p. 275)

Moreover, Harmer also notices that “by broadening the world of the classroom to include the world outside, they allow students to use a much wider range of language than some more task-centred activities may do.” (p. 275) Therefore it is clear that role plays increase students’ speaking skills, since they give them an opportunity to practise, in a relatively low-stress environment, the kinds of speech acts they would need in interactions outside the classroom. Students develop their own ideas and this makes them more involved and more enthusiastic.

Additionally, children like to imitate adults in various situations such as getting married, going shopping, conducting a class, etc. In such situations they have to adapt the language they know and conform to social conventions governing the way real people would express themselves in that situation. Thus, role plays encourage their creativity and develop their imagination by giving them the opportunity to use language in different contexts.

In a role-play activity students will:

• Cooperate and communicate
• Be spontaneous and improvise
• Give depth to their characters
• Rely on previous experience
• Improve speaking skills
• Speculate
• Justify opinions
• Agree and disagree

Setting the scene and generating interest
Before choosing a situation for a role play teachers should keep in mind their students’ needs and interests and provide them with opportunities to practise what they have learned. My students were between 15 and 16 years old and had as a textbook Gold- New First Certificate, Longman. Unit 12 focuses on crime and punishment vocabulary which is good but the exercises are far from ideal for encouraging conversation amongst them. In order to bring this unit to life I made use of my creativity and decided to organise a mock trial as a role-play activity. In this way I managed to get the whole class speaking English together and familiarised them with court procedures and human rights law.
Every student received a character card with their new name on it and the details that they would need in order to play that particular character. I organised the class so that the desks were in twos and facing each other. Some of the students grumbled about this new arrangement as they were out of their comfort zones but I considered that this new arrangement could improve both audibility and visibility. The judge was invited to the teacher’s desk where he had a bell which he would ring in order to make silence in the court.
After the first witness was interviewed I realised two things. All my students’ attention was fully focused on what was going on in the classroom and the entire activity actually generated great fun.
Model preparatory task
In order to prepare students for the trial I told them that they would act in a criminal case in which the defendant Sharon Smith was charged with first degree murder. The prosecution claimed that the murder was premeditated because Smith had planned to kill her old husband. However, Smith had a strong alibi as she was seen at a party the evening her husband was murdered. Moreover, I also offered them the following clues:
• There was a cigarette end next to the deceased’s body, but he was a non-smoker.
• There was a suicide note, but it wasn’t written in the deceased’s handwriting.
• The note contained some grammar mistakes.
• Forensic evidence suggests that the killer had auburn hair and that he/she was wearing something white.
I gave students role-cards with clear role description so that they could play their roles with confidence: the judge, the jurors, the prosecution lawyer, the defendant, an unemployed person, and so on. For example, the judge was provided with the following information: conduct the trial, ask lawyers to introduce themselves and the defendant, listen to all the witnesses, pass sentence if the defendant is found guilty. Each card contained detailed instructions and in some cases stating the problem but without giving any solutions. For instance, the prosecution lawyer received the following cues: think of a motive for the crime, prove that the defendant had time to leave the party, commit the murder and then return to the party, interview the defendant, interview the prosecution witnesses: Lisa Gordon (the defendant’s sister-in-law), Walter Simpson (the butler), Thomas Shepherd (the victim’s business partner), Ray Blackberry (the victim’s personal lawyer), The Browns (neighbours), Harry Jones (police investigator), interview the defence witnesses: Sharon Smith (the defendant), Helen Smith (the defendant’s sister), Ben Lamont (the defendant’s supposed lover).
Student preparation time
After each student read his/her character card they had five minutes to think of what they were going to say in the trial. I encouraged the lawyers to think of a list of questions to interrogate witnesses and suspects. Due to the unpredictable nature of communication I considered that longer time was useless.
Challenges – dealing with problems
Students had to be familiar with the target language because they had already worked on the vocabulary activities from the textbook in the previous class. However, some of them were not able to remember important words and they had to paraphrase or switched to Romanian to ask for help. I encouraged them to continue using English and try to make themselves understood by omitting some information if necessary and making their ideas simpler.

Error correction was another problem I had to deal with. I didn’t want to interrupt them in the middle of the activity so I put down their mistakes and discussed them at the end. On the one hand, constant interruption may destroy the flow of conversation. On the other hand, not providing any form of feedback would make the activity largely arbitrary and disconnected from the needs of the learner. I also provided students with the correct English words that were avoided or paraphrased.

I helped quiet or non-fluent students with ways to get their point across and at the same time I reminded dominating talkers to be patient and to invite others to participate. I also encouraged students to interrupt for clarification whenever necessary.


Students get more speaking practice during a role play activity than during a traditional, teacher-fronted class and they slightly make fewer errors than those in teacher-controlled activities.

To my amazement, my bored teenagers sprang to life, improvising brilliantly and using the language provided by the textbook in a new context. The activity proved to be interactive, funny and an excellent opportunity for students to use a wide range of vocabulary, structures, functions and intonation patterns. The main advantage is with large classes because they can all be involved and asked to work towards a negotiated final decision. In this way a boring activity that might make students lose interest can instead be skilfully disguised to become more creative and involving.
All in all role play activities show that students are really willing to interact and they can work independently without depending on the teacher. This actually raises their awareness about the relevance of what they are doing in class to real life.

Harmer, Jeremy (2001): The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman, London
Seymour, David and Popova, Maria (2005): 700 Classroom Activities, Macmillan



 How to Be Resourceful Against All Odds. A Teacher’s Testimonial of Past Times Before the Internet
by Margareta Lencu, “Nicolae Iorga” School, Iasi

Keywords: internet, cheap, materials, train tickets, brochures, TV guide, paper

I became a teacher in 1997 AD which means 1 million years ago and mainly the fact that I did not have any access to Internet or teaching books except for the regular visits to the British Council Library. I also visited the old book fairs but that did not help much as the books were really old and could not be applied as such but with serious adaptations. This determined me to rely on the most available sources I could find: me, myself and I. You may all smile at this but what can you do as a young teacher when you do not have teaching materials and much money to spend on them. Some of the experienced teachers helped, others even lent me books; I also attended workshops during MATE conferences and training sessions for young teachers, where I learnt the real thing and not dry and tasteless theory. Still, I resorted mostly to myself and my crazy ideas I did not know I had; they were cheaper and I could afford them on my “rookie” salary.
I am not going to bore you senseless with my ancient methods or the materials I used during my classes then; I am going to write here only about the most scandalous ones, the ones you would not use unless forced to do so by sheer ill-luck. For example, one day it suddenly dawned on me that I could use my train tickets that I had been collecting, as I was a commuter at the time, in order to teach my students the irregular verbs. I simply grouped a number of verbs according to their past tense and participle endings and then wrote them on the tickets. The students got a group of irregular verbs that they had to match present-past or present-past-past participle in groups of 4 or 6 in 3 to 4 minutes. They found it funny and engaging and even decided to take the game home by doing this on pieces of paper or cardboard of their own, so as to play it with their friends or by themselves. So my first experiment went well thus encouraging me to try some more.
My next experiment was to collect from the British Council Library all I could find for free: brochures, forms, advertisements for teacher-training courses abroad or BA and MA degrees at foreign universities. I used the pictures in brochures for teaching tenses, more precisely teaching the Present Tense Continuous, for making descriptions, for playing games in which the students had to mime and define the gestures in the photos. The best use I made of the forms was to teach students how to ask personal and work-related questions necessary to fill in such things. I also photocopied them for every student so that each and every one of them could have an example of how to do it when they needed it in real life. The BA and MA brochures had forms in them but also pictures of the places the courses would take place, their libraries, dorms or language labs. I used them in order to show the students their future possibilities and what life was like at the academic level, as my attempt at giving them some motivation to take English seriously.
And here comes the funny one: what would you use the tubular cardboard piece supporting the toilet paper rolls for? Yup, I took one of those to my English class and you can imagine the 5th graders’ faces when I asked them to bring some more the following week. They did and once we’d collected enough of them, we put them on a long piece of string and used crayons and water colours to paint them beautifully. Then we used markers to write first an irregular verb in the infinitive and right next to it, its past tense form. The students loved the work in itself and then its educational value. I enjoyed the fact that even those with serious learning problems took part in the activity, feeling confident and capable of doing their part. We also used those cardboard pieces to teach word order: this time the students got words they had to put in the right order on a piece of string during a contest for small groups.
I also used old Romanian TV guides and fashion magazines – the cheapest I could find – and supplied the students with them for projects on topics focused on their lives. Some of the Romanian magazines or TV guides were used for translations of titles and film synopses and sometimes simply as pretexts for conversation.
The cheapest of all were the A4 paper sheets used for writing funny notes to be deciphered or making paper houses with rooms and imaginary characters living their extraordinary lives inside them. I used my own voice for the listening exercises when I could not find the cassettes and asked a colleague and good friend of mine to help me with the dialogues; I think I still have that cassette somewhere in the house although times changed and supplied me with so many modern and useful resources. I even tried my luck at drawing certain objects or animals for my younger students; they liked them just as they were and for that I will always love them.
I always thank God for the Internet, the huge ocean full of resources for us teachers and for our students; this short article is only a reminder of the fact that we could once live without it and do something important at the same time: have fun in a very old-fashioned educational style.



 Traditional Traveling vs. Mass Tourism in Post-Industrial America

by Ovidiu Aniculăese, C.N. "A.T. Laurian", Botoşani

Key words: popular culture, novelty, otherness, package holiday, space and time, worlds of fiction

Foreword: The following article is based on a sub-chapter in the previously published high school textbook “Life in America. An Introduction to the Study of Contemporary American Culture” by the same author. For the sake of this publication, some class activities, case studies and questions have been removed while other parts have been changed.

As a nation, Americans are the most traveled people in the world, with the highest mobility both inside and outside the country, especially by car and by plane. Yet, this alleged constant exploration, this unique opportunity for cultural enrichment seems to leave them with little more than all the other forms of entertainment made available by the American popular culture. The reason for that is that the once challenging and enlightening experience of traveling has, in the hands of the technological culture, been transformed into the diluted and contrived experience of mass tourism in order to suit the different priorities of the postmodern common man.
Before the advent of the industrial revolution, people used to travel for two main reasons, depending on their social status. The poor and oppressed traveled in search of material freedom, while the privileged did it to rise up to their status by reaching further knowledge and maturity of thinking. Youngsters from noble families were often sent on a journey immediately after graduation in the hope that the trip would bring them a sense of responsibility and more experience of the world.
Throughout history, these noble travelers have been responsible for constantly challenging the way of life in their country by confronting it with their experience of other countries. This is what brought about such progressive cultural phenomena as Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe. Those explorers actually went through a genuine exchange of values and a cultural debate, eventually passing their restlessness onto their fellow countrymen.
Furthermore, people traveled out of their limited environment to places where they could meet with great minds or people sharing the same interest, thus being able to develop their particular interests rather than allow their community to level them down.
People in today's technological societies – Americans in particular – sleep on the cozy assumption that instant communication through technology and the entertainment provided by the mass media can guarantee wealth of knowledge and wisdom. Unfortunately, the fact remains that making it physically easier for us to gain knowledge and open-mindedness is not the same as actually giving us that knowledge and open mind.
Today's tourists no longer travel for exploration or for the challenge of new worlds. To a large extent, globalization has erased the cultural differences of most tourist destinations around the world. Moreover, those particular destinations have been especially modernized, changed and forged in order to give the tourist a pre-staged experience similar to that of a TV show: strange and shocking, but faithfully matching people's expectations of it and, most importantly, an essentially American, thus familiar experience in its material comfort and technical support. No actual contact with the host country or genuine dialogue with the natives is sought.
The journey then meets other needs than those of past explorers. Post-modern Americans’ life tightly revolves around their career, inside a highly organized society which has already created all the choices and alternatives for their existence, which makes for a pre-determined standardized life, despite some obvious shallow variations. This is also due to the fact that today's American is confined in a thoroughly materialistic existence that overshadows the diluted socially oriented religion he still practices. Thus, living a materialistic standardized restrictive life, the post-modern American feels a dire need for transcending, for getting the feeling of going beyond, for finding novelty and otherness, but is only equipped to experience his standardized technological life. This is what gave rise to popular culture as a standardized system of remedies for the soul which provides exactly that novelty. In fact, it only provides people with a sensation of liberation or transcending, by means of forged experiences like tourism. If we were to imagine modern man’s lost spirituality as an ocean and materialism as dry land, then today’s American is an amphibian on dry land whose sophisticated reason cannot accept the existence of the ocean, though his heart needs it badly; this is why he needs to at least fantasize about that ocean or find ways of experiencing something similar.
In the particular case of tourism, the experience of traveling is designed to provide a concentrated feeling of adventure, exploring novelty, while keeping the tourist confined in the same way of life. For example, while traveling to Thailand, an American will encounter basically the same culture as that of home: his transport will be ensured by a large company that guarantees the same standards everywhere, the hotel will be part of a worldwide chain like Hilton, Sheraton, Four Points or under such franchise to guarantee the same rooms, beds, showers and service everywhere, irrespective of local traditions. The entertainment facilities will match the American style too, only adding a superficial local perfume. This scant liberated experience cannot be that of authentic Thai culture, since the tourist is not equipped for that learning experience and, even allowing a superficial experience of it, one risks getting bored, because what the tourist needs in order to reach satisfaction is a physically appealing, extremely concentrated experience, therefore by all means one carefully contrived* in advance by the tour operator or entertainment business.
Finally, the reality at the end of the journey is not only forged to match the actual reality in homeland America, but also the nature of excitement prescribed by popular culture at home. Thus, the tourist destination in Thailand will have to match the American fantasies of an exotic isolated piece of heaven popularized in the mass media. In other words, Thailand will have to match the exotic kitsch that American televisions say it has to be in order to become satisfactory.
One other aspect that today’s tourism has lost in comparison to traveling in the old days is its material challenge. Once, a trip involved careful and skilful planning, large expense, it was physically difficult, tiresome and posed serious threats to the traveler’s health and even to their life. Now, modern technology provides transportation that is becoming more and more comfortable each day, as well as more reliable, safer and far cheaper. Thanks to that development, almost no effort is required from the prospective traveler: journeying across the continent and even across the world has become almost as commonplace as commuting to work everyday (though the latter might actually involve more risks and difficulties).
Finally, the practical challenge of being in an unknown city or country has been obliterated too. The emergence and development of travel agencies has fostered a tradition of surrendering to professionals all the worries related to organizing a trip, choosing routes and destinations, deciding how long to allow for enjoying each spot and when to take a break, all by simply buying a package holiday. Like any other action in his life as a mass man, all that this adventure and exploration comes down to is … buying!
The guided tour or package holiday falls within the requirements of today’s materialistic culture in the US, which bids people to seek pleasure and material comfort above all. Subjecting oneself to needless pain and strife* by taking control of one’s journey is no longer thought to be good for building character and opening eyes to personal discovery as it used to be. It is simply regarded as ridiculous.
Choosing to use one’s automobile rather than a guided tour is sometimes preferred by virtue of tradition, but it is not necessarily conducive to a richer traveling experience. Cars and the 75,000 kilometer network of expressways across the USA form a world of its own which seems to be floating above America, perfectly insulated from the rich diversity of its regions.
For practical reasons, highways are built over the dullest possible route and they not only help, but actually force the long-distance traveler to avoid the cities in their path. Getting out of the highway to drive on small countryside roads or to go through a city is potentially so complicated, stressing and time-consuming, especially by unfair comparison to the tempting ease and comfort of the highway that no one will venture out of that colorless highway and most people will remorselessly choose to see practically nothing (experience nothing new or enriching) during their journey.
Just like an actual tourist destination, the American highway has all the blessings of the traveler’s home civilization: there are gas stations, supermarkets and hypermarkets, bridge restaurants accessible to drivers in both directions and high-quality motels of standardized comfort which, together, make it practically unnecessary for the traveler to go into cities. That is why many people end up having their vacations mostly on the road, with little time reserved for the destination: the highway itself is the destination.
Like the contrived tourist destinations of package holidays, cars and highways make up a world that replaces reality because they suit the American technological culture. Driving and traveling by plane annihilate two essential dimensions of reality – space and time – because contemporary life no longer takes place in that reality, but in that of technology, an artificial reality that functions according to its own laws. Distances are no longer relevant, since huge ones can now be covered as if they were very small. Time itself, understood as history, is irrelevant since society now rejects the past as a series of illusions or abuses and ignores the future, since materialism bids all individuals to just live the moment. While in other ages, people felt as if they were carrying on a millennial history towards a religion-driven eternity, today’s people see no relevance of either the past or the future for them. Whereas people in the past were often judged according to their contribution to tradition and history, today’s people have become addicted consumers of technology whose personal worth is often judged according to their involvement with state-of-the-art* technology. Time has disintegrated and life today develops in the dimension of technology.
As a consequence of civilization eliminating natural reality in postmodern America, worlds of fiction rule as the most popular tourist destinations. In Florida, Walt Disney World (see photo) is a 111 square kilometer complex of at least four distinct theme parks: Magic Kingdom (similar to the original Disneyland near L.A.), Epcot Center, including Future World and World Showcase (which gives a glimpse of eleven different countries), Disney-MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom. The complex as a whole includes four lakes and about 100 restaurants. Competing with Disney, Six Flags has fourteen theme parks contriving an exotic experience out of history topics or regional traditions, and three water parks across the US.


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