Working on my appetite for learning, September 09

My monthly summary of the best of the blogosphere is ready to be pulled out of the proverbial oven - so much written this month: in here, out there within the community and right across the entire edu-twitterverse: all very much worth taking pause and biting into.

On Kalinago English

I was honoured to host two more guest pieces as part of the She-in-ELT series: Shelly Terrell wrote us a beautiful article about the work of Sister Luz Moreno and Alex Case sort of did a spoof piece on a character based on the many experiences of different female characters he's known, taught with personally - so um yea, Michael Lewis probably didn't say those words, well, not exactly.

I attended a very dynamic forum moderated by Scott Thornbury then wrote about the new mandate for those of us who find teaching with technology beneficial for our students (including a film of what one of my student's thinks) - the comments on that post got me kick off another series of posts... on why I mostly don't like coursebooks.

In the middle of that, I celebrated my blog's first anniversary!

Filmed a tech tip for you - using smartphones in the classroom. Wrote a rather heartfelt piece on globalisation, professionalism in the TEFL industry and our role in that, got cracking good advice on pronuncing vowels (i for i-pod, e -email: it works you guys, thanks so much!).

I also posted a piece on motivation with adult language learners... to be continued in the coming month (have to process and edit the videos).

In the blogosphere

I really enjoyed A passion for warcraft by Gavin Dudeney and Marisa Constantinides' with or without you - both related to teaching with or without technology, the themes of the SEETA discussion.

Gavin, by the way, is looking for help on a presentation he's doing on attitudes to using technology so if you're in the camp of the non-believers, do please head on over and explain why.

Tamas Lorincz shared his less encouraged but more determined thoughts on teaching against the odds and Vicki Hollett has been writing about the theory of the mind - the thoughts of others complete with a very fascinating video on how we know what someone else is thinking.

Which brings me on over to Anne's gorgeous v-blog on signs and communication which made me write a whole bunch of nonsense in the comments there.

Found the TEFL Tradesman's post on Life in the 3rd division an awful bump back to reality rather going up against the grain of my own posting of how important we TEFL teachers all are to globablization.

Ah, perhaps one day... I hear word from Marxist ELF that an alternative conference is up for discussion next year - hitting some of the harder questions in our industry. More on that later but she's also looking for some help.

Alex has already been gearing up for those issues with posts like How can we increase TEFL teachers pay? And Sara Hannam touched on some hard hitting points in her Critical Mass blog on improving conditions and joining unions.

Thank goodness for Janet Bianchini's wonderful list of the things she's done due to her life in TEFL which cheered me up no end, along with Barbara Sakamoto's lovely piece on her cross-cultural experience in The English Auntie.

For more great lists wrapping up the blogosphere, see also

The twitterverse

New to Twitter?
Not sure how it works: see this post here.

Hope this post was satisfying... and/or leaving with you with a hunger for even more!


p.s. bonus prize to those who can correctly guess the name of the methodology author who's considering an alternative career in food photography (pics used with permission).

Reasons I don't like coursebooks (1)

  • crowded pages.


2nd reason

Any Given Dogma

The title of this posting was first coined by Lindsay Clandfield as Any Given Dogme in reference to his hilarious spoof video (below) of Scott Thornbury, starring Al Pacino. I borrowed it for this post as Any Given Dogma as it's incredibly fitting to the themes within my own article: the results of the SEETA forum on teaching with or without technology and topics recently explored within the dogme yahoo!group.

eucharistRaised Lutheran, junior-schooled Catholic.

Explored Buddhism and Taoism while exploring the Asian world.

Read a fair amount of the translated Qu'ran with one of my Ecuadorian language students because she liked Cat Stevens and was interested in understanding the appeal of Islam... so, pretty much, when it comes to talking about dogmas I can opine with the best of them.

There is a point the Christians fight over with such passion you would think it really matters.

The Eucharist: Wine and Bread or the Body and Blood of the Christ?

Transubstantiation, trans-elementation, re-ordination or just fermented grape juice and baked flour?

Now I'm not going to upset anyone here by telling you what I think because if you're in one of the above camps you know what you think and that's good enough.

Instead I'm wittering on again about the English Language Teaching methodology kicked off by Scott Thornbury.

In my previous post, entitled the Dogma of Dogme, I gave you some of the background to the methodology and also talked about its new bible, Teaching Unplugged.

Dogme has been referred to as a movement, off and on, with Thornbury hailed as its guru (by me including but with respect), has been prodded and poked, deemed impossible, made fun of by a large body of know-a-lots and the-would-like-to-look-like-they-know-a-lots who feebly attempt, at every turn, to show how actually it was so and so who came up with the idea before Scott did.

An exercise in grossly missing the point: akin to quoting Dionysus’ birth story, his 12 disciples and the ability to turn water into wine or the star in the east announcing Krishna, the crucifixion of Horus and subsequent resurrection as … infallible proof the Sermon on the Mount never took place or doesn’t hold any truths.

Yeah? Like whatever...

The methodology of dogme: pray tell, when are we lot going to get around to talking about the how, why, when, where and who it does really work with?

When are we going to start empirically proving it?

Given that dogme is Danish for dogma and dogma is, according to Merriam Webster, a point of view put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds… it really is about time this methodology was put up to the test and not just for a week or two.

Thornbury brought the ways of thinking about student-centered learning together, organized them so there could be a code of tenets, doesn't claim to have been the only one with the idea (you should see the list of sources he has to quote each time he speaks) but basically, is the one that made this way of teaching sexy.

His more fundamentalistic followers do really like to split hairs on what teaching dogme-style actually means, even those of them who are no longer teaching and are rather instead, philosophizing.

Some dogmeists focus on the social change, the critical pedagogy, some the concept of bare essentials and others, the damning of technology and a yearning for a simpler life. Some just claim to live in the same city as he does and therefore have special knowledge into its function and purpose.

For others, like myself, it's a mindset - a way of being in the classroom where my students are the co-creators of our curriculum.

Yet it is actually shocking how often you will see written "well, that's not dogme" about anything not that does not fit into someone's personal take of what a dogme class looks like.

In its most simple form: teaching should be done using only the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom – ie themselves – and whatever happens to be in the classroom.
Teaching Unplugged, Scott Thornbury & Luke Meddings

Whatever happens to be in the classroom – herein is probably the root of the confusion - many of us live in a fairly modern world with technology in our rooms, whether it is in our students’ pockets, in our own, on their desks, on the table or on the wall. Does a classroom not contain books?

Sometimes relying on only that which is within the classroom's walls is not enough to hold a conversation together for hours, consistently over a long period; at times there are external pressures which require thought and consideration like exams or HR requirements; it's probably not a very easy or comfortable practice for the new or set-in-their-style or very stressed teacher and in my own opinion, there is a lack of monitoring (I created conversation control sheets which do the trick).

Here is my student, Phillip, talking about what it means to learn English with a dogme teacher.

Fellow dogmeists: consider yourselves most duly called, what will you be doing this year to prove dogme?

  • will you buy Teaching Unplugged, study it, read Thornbury & Meddings’s articles and put the pedagogy into practice?
  • will you convince your DOS to let you try dogme with at least one group?
  • will you talk to your students, explain what’s going to happen in the class and ask them if they want to try it?
  • will you apply the tenets to exam classrooms? To large groups?
  • will you try it out with the kids? With the teenagers?
  • will you walk into class without being the one in control and allow the language to emerge?
  • will you give up your textbook and just teach?
  • will you record what happens in log books, blogs, ning groups?
  • will you share the process? The progress and/or failure (DogmeYahoo!Group)

I, of course, would not call upon you without subscribing to the same and will be recording a new lot of language students right from the get-go, but as the protest-ant here, I'll be doing this with my dogme 2.0 approach, i.e. following the commandments as laid in the council of SEETA:

Scott Thornbury: "I am prepared to admit that my own position, while intentionally provocative has been dangerously reactionary at times.

At the same time, my main complaint about those who advocate the use of technology in the classroom is that they are seldom very explicit about the learning theory that would ground such use. As Neil Postman wrote (in Technopoly) "To the question 'Why should we do this?' [i.e. introduce computers into the classroom] the answer is: 'To make learning more efficient and interesting.' Such an answer is considered entirely adequate, since in Technopoly efficiency and interest need no justification.

It is, therefore, usually not noticed that this answer does not address the question 'What is learning for?' 'Efficiency and interest' is a technical answer, an answer about means, not ends; and it offers no pathway to a consideration of educational philosophy" (p. 171).

This failure to distinguish between means and ends is why I reject the argument that we should use technology simply because it is here. Or there. Or everywhere. Or because it is fun. Or because not to do so is willfully perverse. Or incongruent. Or hypocritical. And so on. These are arguments not about ends, but about means.

Let me suggest some ends for which technology might be facilitative. To me, there are at least four. For convenience I'll label them DDCC. In ascending order of importance, they are:

  • Delivery: technology should be capable of delivering content in ways that are more efficient, more immediate, more impactful, more customised than many traditional means such as print materials;
  • Dialogue: technology should be capable of providing means for learners to interact with one another and with their teachers, and to do so in a collaborative, communciative way, that might radically increase learning opportunities.
  • Creativity: technology should offer the means for learners to be creative either inividually or collaboratively, using a variety of media and modalities, in ways that enrich their language learning experience;
  • Community: technology should offer the possibility of building extended but close-knit communities of practice among learners and teachers, distributed over time and space and in ways that motivate language learning and use.

To me, then, a technological tool - such as Skype, Moodle, YouTube, Powerpoint, Second Life etc - needs to be evaluated in accordance with its potential to meet at least one, if not all, of the above criteria.

At the same time, the feasability of the technology must be assessed in relation to its costs - in terms of hardware, training, maintenance, built-in obsolesence and so on.

If, in the end, the "DDCC" ends can be achieved just as efficiently and as economically without Skype, Moodle, YouTube etc - then fine.

Let's not be seduced by technology for technology's sake. Language teaching has been going on very nicely, for centuries now, with little more than a few people in a room."

I look forward to many lively conversations on these themes.

And now for fun, the video, Any Given Dogme, starring Al Pacino as Scott Thornbury, directed by Lindsay Clandfield.


Useful links related to this posting:
Dogme, nothing if not critical
Marisa Constantinides, Technology: with or without you

Shelly Terrell on Sister Luz Moreno

As a Hispanic American, we would frequently drive to the border and do missionary work in Mexico so I'd like to describe Mexico for those who have only been to the resort areas.

Families often live in shanty towns and there are cardboard cities where houses look like they were made from boxes. As many as seven live in these homes. Children do not know the luxuries of basic needs or a formal education, they ask tourists to buy Chiclets and other goods to get enough money to eat.

This is the México that Sister Luz has dedicated her efforts to make a difference in and where she began her journey.

Sister Luz Moreno is not just a "she" in English Language Teaching, but a remarkable person who possesses an intense passion for helping people. She was born and raised in León Guanajuato, México.

Not only did Sister Luz teach in Mexico, but she drives there annually to give poor children toys and clothing. I found this out by just Googling her name because she never boasts of her service. Read this amazing article about her, Good Works in Mexican Village Multiply like "Fishes and Loves."

She learned English in her teens by attending a Brigidine Boarding School in Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, Ireland and entered the Religious Life after Vatican Council II.

Although she has taught in México, Ireland, and Italy, I met her in San Antonio, Texas where she became my mentor in my second year of being the English language teacher at our high school.

At the time, we had over 30 international students from 12 different nations and various proficiencies.

Sister Luz noticed that the English language learners were struggling in their mainstream classes and that they rarely interacted with native speaking students so she sought my help in creating an International Society.

In the first year, over 70 native speakers and English language learners attended several festivals and cultural activities. We even hosted an International Thanksgiving supper featuring over 30 dishes from various countries. Over 100 members of the community attended.

I asked Sister Luz why she chose to help the English language learners at the school.

She responded, "The Sisters in Ireland helped me to learn English. I worked hard to master the language and to love its literature. I believe foreign students will have something like two souls when they master, appreciate and love the culture where they live, in this case, our American culture.

I get chills when I hear Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, just like when Mariachi's play.

I also get chills when I hear an Irish tenor or my Italian songs. That is to have a soul that speaks to God in different languages."

For the She-in-ELT series, I interviewed Sister Luz and was touched by her answers.

Describe your experience as a nun

I have experienced the love of God in my life. I am sure he takes care of me and holds me in his embrace. He is a provident husband, friend, father and brother to me.

He gives me a large family in the people who love me here and opens the doors of opportunity for me wherever a door closes.

What obstacles have you faced as a teacher and as a nun?
The main obstacle I sometimes face is poor self-image. This is an obstacle that I have worked to overcome and with God's grace and support from family and friends, I have improved.

What made you want to teach?
I love to work with people. My teachers gave me self-confidence and wings to fly. I want many to fly with me, fly on their own and soar high so they can touch God, so to speak.

What has been one of the most cherished teaching experiences in your career?
I remember encouraging Richard Castillo by giving him sheet music and asking him to play it. I love when I see a talent and I am able to bring it forth and the person flourishes in that area.

I fondly remember teaching vocabulary to the foreign students who came from Asia, feeling I was making a difference.

Who has been a great influence on your teaching style?
The Sisters from Ireland have been a great influence in my teaching style. Also, Señorita Coco who opened my mind to classical music and many other beautiful aspects of life. She taught me many a course in León.

Lately, I have learned a lot from being involved with a team in a small mission ministry in Matehuala, México. Giving to others in the form of teaching energizes me. I desire to be a good teacher and the Holy Spirit shapes my daily teaching with the words that come out of my mind and the way my lessons are presented. I could not do it on my own.

- o -

I am blessed to have a mentor like Sister Luz in my life. She has encouraged me to step beyond the boundaries of teaching and to reach the heights of giving. She is also a close friend.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is an English language teacher from Texas who now teaches in Germany where she has been fortunate enough to meet another inspiring "She in ELT," Karenne Sylvester. Shelly has worked in nonprofit organizations and taught in unstructured settings for 12 years before becoming a "She" in ELT herself. Find out more about Shelly by visiting her LinkedIn profile and her Teacher Reboot Camp blog.

Useful links related to this posting:

Do you know another inspiring women in the field of English language teaching?
Contribute to the she-in-elt series by visiting this post for details.


A smart way to use your phone in ELT classrooms: TechTip #12

Whenever I see freelance language teachers still luggin' around great big CD players from in-company site to in-company class... I always pause and wonder why.

Because these days, in your pockets, you've got all the audio power you need.

If you've got a smartphone or actually any phone with an mp3 player, or even just an i-pod, all you need to bring audio to the classroom is a pair of speakers.

Here's a video of me using my previous phone and a €10 set of speakers.

I confess I did think about re-shooting this video - now that've got a swishier set of butterfly speakers with powerful enough audio for a large room of 2o students and a rather flashier phone... but Katrin did let me film her face and did such a lovely job of starring in this vid... so I decided to load this one up after all.

The video even shows you the little bit of "faffing-about" that so many teachers complain of when it comes to teaching with technology - I left this in so that you can get a feel on how it really doesn't interrupt our class.

To put audio tracks on to your phone, simply insert your CD in your computer, upload into either Windows Media Player or I-tunes, then download the tracks you want on to your phone's memory card, in the same way that you do with music!

What are some of the other ways we can use our smartphone devices to teach English?

Or better yet, what are some of the ways our students can maximize their jogging, commuter time, walking to the canteen time.. etc, to learn English with their very clever machines?


Useful links:


I rang up my parents the other day to talk through one of those family crisis things that happens to all families and after we were done hashing through all of that, my father exclaimed:

"Lawd, girl, you ain't easy."

Daddy has been saying that particular expression for a very long time now but I laughed nervously, guessing what was coming next.

His voice went all soft, like he was trying not to let Mummy in the back room hear.

"You google yourself?"

What could I do but giggle in embarrassment.

"Yes, Daddy, I've googled myself."

"Girl, what you doing on that side of the pond?"

"I'm blogging, Daddy, I'm a blogger."

"You ain't easy. Ever since you a likle girl, head up high like you wan' see everything. How you go and make Google take notice of you like that- you're 4, 5 pages deep, ya' kno'"

Yup, Daddy-o, I know.

I don't know how it happened, it just sort of did. And well... it was my blog's birthday this week. Kalinago English is one year old.

So I decided it's probably about high time for a little reflection on the reasons why I blog because this week while I was working on a project for a Publishing House it hurt not to be blogging.

Dan Pink, I think, hits the nail on the head. Motivation, he says, boils down to three things.

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose.

Last year I was offered the opportunity to write a Business English course book which I turned down mainly because of the abysmal pay.

As I don't earn much from the blog, why one and not the other?

Okay... as a dogmeist I'm hardly interested in writing a media I don't believe in. But I do write resource materials so that's not really it.

It's because the blog is mine.

It's all mine. Every single article, the good ones and the bad ones. The outstanding drafts, the layout, the half-finished ideas and series. An enormous amount of satisfaction that I can produce this thing all by myself.

The photograph was taken by my little brother and is of the harbor near our house. The name comes from one of the tribes I'm descended from.

The whole thing is me, comes from me and yet is not about only me.

If you were to have a look at my articles from October or November last year, well actually - please don't, you'd have noticed I'm becoming a better writer.

Now, it's not that I'm a big head, and in part it's to tell new bloggers to be a little patient - you will get better and people will come and visit your site, but it's also to share how thrilling it is when I compare my writing and teaching six months ago with today and recognize that in six months, in another year I will have learned even more.

I write for teachers.

For teachers just like me. Teachers who I educate, teachers who teach other teachers to educate too.

Whenever you get something out of my blog, out of my words or videos, when you reflect as I do on your own teaching practices - I get a kick and feel like I am contributing something to the world I live in.

I'm always thinking of new things to share with you.

At the top of Maslow's Motivation Pyramid is the actualization of the self, however I think there is an even greater drive for motivation and that is being part of an actualization of a community.

It's never been about Google. It's not about what OneStopBlogs thinks or Babla and I don't really care about visitor statistics.

I blog because you come: you read, you share.

Thank you for a great year.


What's a TEFL teacher?

abayaThese days, now that I'm suddenly connected to educators from all sorts of different fields, located all over the world via various different social-networking sites, I thought I'd left my bubble... yet my bubble didn't leave me.

In a private conversation, one of my new edu-colleagues on Twitter thought I was German - because I live in Germany (understandable) and remarked in surprise about my globe-trotting, which to me is completely normal... because in my niche of education, it is.

I replied "Oh, that's just the life of a TEFL teacher"

to which she responded

"What's TEFL?"

And the bubble popped. Time to define who I am, what I do.

By the end of this year 2 billion people, one third of the world's population will speak English.

It didn't happen by itself like some kind of freakish magic tipping point.

Without blowing any trumpets here (or alright then, with loud blowing of trumpets, sounding horns and a drumroll) TEFL teachers are the behind-the-scenes make-up artists, set builders, choreographers, composers and conductors; the designers, the dialog coaches and the dolly grips.

We have a job because of globalization and we're the reason globalization is happening relatively successfully.

Globalization is nothing new, started back in 1492, however it was mostly a dog-eat-dog scenario - the dynamic force in the first round of globalization consisted of countries taking over countries, in the second it was the companies that globalized. But around 2000 we entered a whole new era: globalization 3.0, which flattened the playing field.

According to Thomas L. Friedmann in The World is Flat, the dynamic force of today is the new found power of individuals to collaborate and compete globally.

In every corner of the world TEFL teachers actively seek out ways to enable people to speak within one language: English.

thai kidsIt is our waking up at the crack of dawn to teach a businessman before he starts his work, our struggle with kids, our encouraging teenagers to form their tongues around ridiculous pronunciation rules privy only to the English language.

TEFL teachers teach the world's peoples to sing pop songs, read literature and news articles and our teaching day is spent in dough-nut shifts of morning and evening sessions and sometimes we work 40 hours a week (plus prep).

We scavenge through books, websites, podcasts, video sites, blogs and grammar tomes to find materials which will fit to our particular students' needs and then we mash that all together.

  • The gas deal between a Spaniard and a Russian was made because we taught them the phrases they needed to use in a meeting.
  • The smooth transaction between the Chinese clothes retailer and the Ecuadorian wool maker happened because TEFL teachers taught them how to negotiate using the same expressions.
  • The German doctor who had to present the findings of his research on lung cancer, could, because we went through his presentation with him, again and again and again.
  • The Japanese car maker could launch the latest model and comfortably participate in small talk with the journalists because we taught him how to achieve confluence.
  • The emails between the Mongolian and the French secretary went well because they could establish the right timing for the itinerary as a direct result of the grammar we taught them both.
  • The Bonairian is now able to tell her Portuguese husband that she's really cross he won't take out the garbage because we taught them both how to pronounce such a silly word.

cyprus-conferenceWhat is a TEFL teacher?

We learn the different methods in which acquisition of another language occurs.

We test. We teach. We test.

We chat about things of no relevance and we have deep meaningful conversations.

We play games and we cut up cards.

We draw pictures.

We act, we simulate and we role-play.

We're mostly underpaid and largely abused by institutional chains.

We ran away from normal lives and office jobs and found our place in sharing knowledge.

We think, eat and breathe the idioms and nuances of our language.

We're highly specialized and we're highly skilled.

We've no real skills yet through charm can somehow make another person speak.

We know grammar, punctuation and pronunciation like no one's business which makes us very boring when we correct you.

neal chambersWhere are TEFL teachers from?
We're adventurers from everywhere: traveling across the world to teach in villages, to the dusty cities in the back of beyond, we've climbed up mountains, lived on beaches, squatted in jungles. We've learned the culture and the languages of the countries we live in, worn their clothes, laughed at their jokes, danced salsa, shimmied the merengue and stayed up late drinking ouzo.

We're native English speakers who went on holiday somewhere and found ourselves in relationships, got married (and/or got divorced) to foreigners but stayed on in their countries.

We're homesick but no longer fit within our own cultures and settle while yearning for Marmite, Vegemite or American Mustard (or breadfruit and sunsets).

We're non-native English speakers who've mastered the English language through university or work abroad and are now fighting to gain the same status and pay as the native English speakers who're foreigners in our countries... who sometimes don't work as hard or know how to break down the language into bite-sized chunks.

Who are TEFL teachers?

Whatever it is that we are, we're amazing: we're changing the way the world communicates.


Useful links

ELT jargon - Macmillan English Dictionary
Wikipedia English as a Foreign or Second Language
How to find a job in TEFL

Alex Case on Paula Reynolds

You almost certainly haven’t heard of Paula Reynolds, partly because until she retired she was, to most people, just another of those hard working female teachers busy cutting up packs of cards on coloured paper and occasionally getting bolshy about standards while her male colleagues were out getting drunk, pulling their students, but also because she worked in a time where there was a singular lack of opportunities for female TEFLers.

Paula and I think remembering that situation can both show us how far we've come in making She central to ELT and remind us of the dangers that still lurk if we take equal opportunities for granted.

Here are some of the indignities she endured over 35 years and three continents:

  • Schools in Thailand having uniforms just for the female staff
  • Having to wear a skirt of a precisely determined length in China
  • Schools asking for a younger photo to put in the school brochure
  • Being offered kids’ classes “because the parents prefer a woman”, “to bring a woman’s touch” or even “to make up for having none of your own”
  • pouring teaSchools in Japan expecting female teachers to pour the tea and do photocopies for everyone
  • Housewife classes always being given to male teachers in Japan
  • Schools with predominantly housewife classes not recruiting female teachers in Japan
  • Being told to pretend she was married to her male flatmate in Turkey (to “stop the neighbours talking”)
  • Repeatedly being asked to give talks on teaching kids at conferences, despite never having taught them
  • Being a victim of London schools specifically trying to recruit straight male DoSs (in the brief ARELS positive discrimination days)
  • Staff Xmas parties in topless bars in Bangkok
  • Pirelli calendars in staff rooms all over the world
  • Being told “Yes, I can imagine why a woman of your age would teach in Bali”

  • Michael Lewis’s letter in the ELTJ saying that her criticism of The English Verb was “a clear case of PMT speaking in the place of logic”
  • Publishers suggesting that she’d get work more easily if she was in a TEFL writing couple
  • A gay teacher proposing a sham marriage for that purpose (she says you’d be surprised how many famous TEFL “couples” actually started this way)
  • Asked to wear a fake beard to teach a class of mainly middle eastern males in London

As Paula herself says, most of these things could never happen nowadays... but in 20 years’ time, there'll plenty of things that do happen today and we'll look back on them with just as much surprise that they ever could have.

Alex Case, blogger, is unfortunately He in ELT, but has worked with and dated female teachers, students, customer service staff and ELT editors in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Italy, Japan, Korea and the UK.

Useful links related to this posting:

The A-E-I thing (English as a Second Language Acquisition)


I despair. Have been teaching English for nigh on 15 years. Taught in UK, HK (ran a non-profit there)... was a DOS in Ecuador, write materials and have my own business here.

Taught the wee ones.

Taught the teeny boppers, the housewives, the businessmen and the CEOs.

They all make the same mistake, no matter the country, no matter the age. They all mix up A, E and I.

Confession time: I started off teaching children and I somehow never came up with a different way to teach the difference.

I, um, still say:

A's for apple

E's for egg (sometimes I say elephant LOL)

I's for ice-cream.

I draw pictures. I raise my eyebrows when they use one for the other.

I mime biting the apple, cracking the egg or licking the ice-cream. I just say egg if they write an i or apple when they look at me with fear in their eyes.

But even after a gazillion corrections, they still get it wrong: time and time and time and time again.


What do you/did you do to undo this particular fossilized mistake?

Useful links related to this posting:
Dealing with Fossilized Errors
The role of pride in the Business English language classroom


Hi English Fans! (Motivation in Adult EFL)


There have been some rather hot and heavy discussions recently about whether or not it's a good idea to use technology in teaching.

And if you're a regular visitor to my blog then you pretty much already know what I think.

For those who're new: I drum it in hard and heavy. It's the world we live in, it's the world we better be teaching in.

This time, though, I won't be socking you with my opinions. I'll just show you the result.

For those who don't know any back story, I'm very proudly a dogmeist which is a kind of radical movement in teaching, started up by Scott Thornbury back in 2000 (see his website and articles here).

Dogme has the goal of student-centered learning, conversation-driven lessons and a clear focus on emergent language.

Trouble is, I'm also a technologist and most dogmeists aren't.

Now, although Scott Thornbury is my thought leader (there really isn't anyone else like him or his work in our field) we've had a few, somewhat public, arguments about the tech side of things.

I enjoy these discussions - he makes valid points which force me to up my anty each time: just because I think I'm right, doesn't mean that I am.

Being wrong is a point of growth and opportunity to develop - it's specifically because of these arguments, every time they flare up, that I keep copious notes on what's happening in the classroom, how my students are responding, how much they're retaining, where they're improving and constantly question my teaching practice and its effectiveness.

Today's post is about student motivation in my hybrid dogme meets technology teaching.

This blog mostly contains lessons I've done again and again, things that I have experimented with way before you get to see them ;-) however today... I'm going to go out on a wing and admit I don't know what my students will produce next week.

Today, I'll simply ask you to look at the level of motivation my students are displaying due to the fact that we focus on things that they are interested in learning, work on language they need to learn and reuse this in ways applicable to their lives.

We use technology when it fits to do so, not because it's fancy.

Part 1

Language objective:

Mastery over phrases used in statistical reporting /Financial English.

In class procedure:

  • Get each student to draw trend expressions as given onto large sheets of paper then present to the rest of the class. If we had had computers in class with us that day, these could have been done in excel.
  • Discussion and agreement /disagreement. Building contextual examples.
  • Cross checking via BlackBerry for expressions when validity of use uncertain.

The expressions in drawings:

Setting up the pretask activity:
(I dislike the word homework)

Brainstorm potential sources for reports.

Pre Task
Find pre-existing graphs, pie-charts, annual reports and download from the internet, preferably in English but not necessarily.

The task is not to create a graph (they know how to do that) but instead to choose any figures and trends personally interesting and think about how to best describe change.

Next week we'll discuss their findings in English.

Student involvement

See emails from Eva, the self appointed moderator, who decided to make sure that all students (including those missing) are on the same page for next week. I did not request for this email to be written, although I wasn't surprised to see it - she often follows up on the lessons.

We live in a world with email. We live in a world where digital photographs can be taken and shared, where .pdfs can be downloaded and distributed.

We live in a world where our phones are micro-sized computers.

We live in a world where the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented but can instead be analyzed - where the focus in language learning can actually be on the language.

Next week I will show you what happens next In Task - what they produce, if they reused the language, how they present these and anything else.

p.s. Can I just say this cracks me up: Hi English Fans! My German/Polish students in this class are aged 40+ and work in the Financial sector.

Gavin Dudeney's Sexy Redux

She-in-ELT, intro

It seems a slight condescension to even consider writing an article like this, despite the fact that it was an original blog posting of mine which kicked off the series.

So maybe we should first go back and take a look at the conversation that ensued…

The blog post was entitled ‘sexy ELT’ (it should, of course, have been ‘sexist’, as one of the comments from Sara Hannam pointed out – more on her later - but I’m renowned for my impish humour online, and anyway, I thought the point was better made with the word ‘sexy’) and it was very short:

“An idle thought, but why are most sponsored speakers at ELT conferences nice (young) men when the majority of teachers of ELT worldwide are women? Oh no…. wait…. I see what they did there…”

Sara pointed out, quite rightly, that it really pretty much echoes the glass ceiling encountered in other professions, and whilst she acknowledged that there might be an ‘eye candy’ element, it was probably more to do with accepted ‘norms’ – the ‘that’s the way things are’ scenario.

Alex Case chipped in with the suggestion that women and their egos are not prone to the relentless attention seeking that men seem to be, and that there were plenty of women in positions such as DoS, etc., which was partially my point, I think. Chalk face – good, conference bad.

Karenne reckoned men are simply more territorial and ‘yell more’ and that in some places there’s an ingrained respect for the ‘Papa’ figure, which covers rather a lot of regular conference plenary speakers, despite their protestations of youth!

Scott Thornbury suggested that there was some geographical skew going on, with women much more prominent in the States and Australia than in the UK, and indeed that has partially been my experience when attending conferences in Asia – but it’s still true that whichever way you cut it, there are way more male plenary speakers than women.

A quick glance at some of my conference attendances in the early part of the year came up with 33 male and only 9 female plenary speakers. Scott then wondered what would happen if you factored in sexuality to the equation, but we never got to explore that avenue.

Anne Hodgson shared that her local teachers’ association was considering a ‘Women Speakers Year’, but I have to say I’ve always been troubled by concepts of positive discrimination and quotas.

We struggle with this every year when sitting down to discuss plenary speakers for the IATEFL Annual Conference – do we have a good balance of men and women, NEST and non-NEST, etc.?

And sometimes I find myself thinking why don’t we make a list of the best speakers we’ve seen and then vote until we have four and invite them and not worry what sex, nationality or sexuality… Surely people want to see the best?

Barbara Sakamoto brought up the subject of logistics – she thought that men often didn’t have the babies to deal with, the packing of extra stuff, childcare… and there may certainly be an element of truth in that.

You’re hard pushed to find a crèche or similar facilities at most conferences and that’s something that should be addressed as a matter of urgency. She also thought there were issues of efficiency – people involved in tours, the saving of money, etc. and of expediency – who wants to be the person who invited the rubbish plenary speaker? There’s an A list, a B list and a C list. The problem, however, is how one changes list…. Or how one gets on it if it’s full of long-lived Papa legends.

Sara returned to the debate at that point, and she’s actually quite hard to summarise due to her lengthy posts and lucid arguments.

But essentially she debunked a lot of the talk about sex and sexuality, male aggression and male egos and suggested that men and women need to get in touch with their similarities, not their differences (go and see the comments for her far-more-lucid posting). Essentially, though, she thought that it was an issue that needed sorting by all involved, and that talking about it openly was a good place to start.

Other factors crept into the discussion.

Alex thought men were more humorous and that this teaching style was attractive to learners.

Sara thought that women generally had to work harder at generating laughs, largely for historic reasons in that stand-up had been a male domain for quite some time. Many people around this point in the discussion started poring over conference programmes and finding lots of female speakers – but this was rank and file, rather than invited or plenary, so perhaps not relevant at this stage.

And that was where it left off.

It’s unusual for me to see such a lively debate on an ELT blog and as it tailed off I thought perhaps we hadn’t solved anything, but we had – at least – talked about it together and that was a good thing.

And so we fast-forward to Lindsay Clandfield’s notoriously polemical poll of the most influential people in ELT (where were the technologists, we screamed, where were the women….?) and now we’re here, co-creatingKarenne’s current series of ‘She-in-ELT.’

And here I am, a man, being asked to contribute to the conversation.

Some people think everyone’s making too big a thing out of it.

But again, to quote Spinal Tap (as Lindsay did in that blog entry), “making a big thing out of it might have been a good idea”.

Karenne invited me to do an interview, an obituary or a thought piece to contribute to the series and we had a little email discussion about what that might entail. So, with all that said and done, I’d like to tell you about some of the women I’ve met during my career even though that sounds vaguely condescending to me …

It’s weird making a female only list, and weirder still to know that someone, somewhere, is going to wonder why I forgot them. For that I apologise – for Karenne’s assertion that I should even be doing this, and for my inability to remember all the people that have had an effect on my life over twenty years in the profession.

There’s no order, no ranking.

Having mulled it over, I simply decided this would be my thank you to the professionals who have influenced me. You may not find books of theirs in bookshops, but you should definitely seek them out, say hello and buy them a cup of coffee if they’re ever near you.

Not many of them are famous, as you’ll see – though plenty of them should be, even if they don’t crave it like we attention-seeking men do. And perhaps not many of them would make great plenary speakers (but hey, sponsors, you’ll never know unless you go and see them speaking and get over the ‘must have bearded middle-aged men or spunky young Turks’ approach to conferences) but they’re all part of my ELT life and I’ve enjoyed meeting (or working with) all of them.

These are not biographies – just notes on where and when and why…


Has always been a place to meet good people – the sort of people who give up their time to contribute to the profession, volunteers – yes, people who work for no money! I’ve been volunteering for some time now, and some of the people who have given me cause to think, offered advice and lent a sympathetic ear include:

• Catherine Walter, Susan Barduhn, Tessa Woodward, Marion Williams
Past Presidents

• Glenda Smart
Indefatigable Executive Officer

• Sara Hannam
My social conscience on the Coordinating Committee

• Sophie Ioannou-Georgiou
Long-standing Learning Techs SIG volunteer

There are others who should be on the list, but to mention them all would take quite a while.

IATEFL survives to an extent on the time dedicated by its large volunteer body. If you’ve got some time and some skills, please consider getting involved.


Plenty of people here... Our very own Karenne has an eye for a story and often makes me laugh with her enthusiasm which can rub people up the wrong way. A very good read.

Burcu Akyol is rapidly rising up the ranks of visible bloggers and she’s enthusiastic and helpful to the extreme. She’s writes a blog and is also a classroom blogger and this mix of using technology for her own development and in her classroom practice is a poke in the eye for all those ‘educators’ who think technology is all very well for them, but that we mustn’t confuse the poor little mites in our classes (or the teachers we train) with the perils of the flashing light.

Others should be on this list, too – but again the list would be too long. Visit some of the popular ELT blogs, examine their blogrolls and follow through - I guarantee you won't be disappointed.


My own personal hero in SL is Eloise Pasteur.

Immensely talented, opinionated, and one of the most generous educators I’ve ever come across. El’s fame runs way back in SL, and she’s driven some of the most popular teaching tools and some of the most amazing builds in-world. She’s also the person who suffered the indignity of teaching me SL scripting, and was so good that although I booked and paid for ten classes, she’d taught me more than enough after seven.

SL and ELT are increasingly synonymous with the name Nergiz Kern (or Daffodil in-world), and if you want to get into SL and meet a friendly, supportive person and community then I would seek her out.

And lastly, but not leastly, Carol Rainbow who has supported the EduNation project throughout, is a regular tenant and creator of things, and volunteers as estate manager whilst I'm travelling - couldn't do without her in my virtual world!

Join the SLExperiments group and go along to a meeting – you won’t regret it.


I’m lucky enough to work with one of the brainiest people in ELT, Nicky Hockly, and it’s been an immense piece of luck on my part to hook up with her and run a company with her.

She’s perceptive, focussed, well-read, organised and many other things which are sadly lacking in me. She’s even better at the accounts than I am (and my Dad was an accountant – you’d think something would have rubbed off, wouldn’t you?)

Last year at IATEFL she did the funniest Pecha Kucha I’ve seen, which belies the notion that women have to work harder at being funnier.

Catch the video on the IATEFL site for more…

We’re also lucky to be able to work with people such as Ana Falcao in Brazil, Valentina Dodge in Italy, Kristina Smith in Turkey, Anne Fox in Denmark…

In past professional existences working with Jenny Johnson at International House Barcelona taught me loads (you’ll find her at Cactus TEFL now) and an ongoing consultancy with Maureen McGarvey at International House London has also been instructive and often fun (note to Maureen: must make backups, must make backups).

In recent years I’ve done a lot of work with the British Council and you could do no better than to seek out Caroline Meek (Singapore), Mina Patel (Kuala Lumpur), Rebecca Hales (Hanoi), Olga Barnashova (Moscow) or any number of local support staff in offices all around the world who are experts in organising, welcoming, making visits and work easy and fruitful.

It’s a large organisation, but some of the people working there are some of the most professional and amazing people I’ve had the fortune to work with.

And of course I could go on and talk about inspiring training course participants, etc., but by now I feel Karenne is already regretting asking me to contribute to this series, so I’m going to draw this to a close soon.

So what of this list?

Well, firstly, it’s not exhaustive...

Secondly, it’s part of a complex picture and a complex professional existence which involves many men too.

And it really only means one thing, and that thing is personal: I work in a profession full of amazing people of all shapes, sizes, colours, nationalities, lifestyles…, I’m lucky enough to travel a lot in my work and, by extension, lucky enough to be able spend time with these people and to benefit from their kindliness and their professional experience (as well as the odd mad karaoke night in Manila).

Some of these people happen to be women, and that’s about it, really.

And what of the ‘big’ names – where is my list of them (maybe the list you were expecting?). Well, I’ve read a lot of them and taken inspiration from their work. Occasionally at conferences I’ve been delighted by people like Joy Egbert, Carol Chappelle, Catherine Doughty and many others.

But you see my problem here – I’m struggling to name women plenary speakers in my field who I’ve met at conferences.

And that sort of proves my original point.

In the next instalment, watch out for ‘a list of men in ELT.’

No, just kidding…

Gavin Dudeney is an edu-technologist.

Project Director of the Consultants-e and Honorary Secretary of IATEFL. Author of 'The Internet and the Language Classroom' (Cambridge University Press 2000, Second Edition 2007) and - with Nicky Hockly - 'How to Teach English with Technology' (Longman, 2007).

His specialities include: Conversion of courses to distance delivery, full range of training, installation, configuration and support for VLEs, setting up CoPs amongst professional groupings, online support systems for educators, development and design of online courses, evaluation of online, distance educational projects, f2f workshops in ICT-related issues, creation of flash and video-based training tutorials, design of educational environments in Second Life.

To contribute to the She-in-ELT series: please see original posting here

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