Newsletter:Newsletter Spring 2012 Print
From the Committee
From the Chair...
Dear ELTA Members,
Spring is finally on the way, the clocks have been set forward and the ELTA year 2012 is also just beginning. We have an exciting year of events ahead of us, and I hope we'll be seeing your faces regularly this year.
There have been a couple of changes to the Committee membership for 2012, with farewells, new faces and role changes. As the Chair and on behalf of the Committee, we would like to extend our thanks to Cáít Kinsella for her energy, good ideas, gracious hospitality and her know-how in the fields of language training and computer skills, all of which she generously brought to ELTA-Rhine and the Committee. She has been an important contributor and administrator involved in the changes that were made last year to our website and Newsletter as well as the new logo and stationery design and electronic communications. She will continue to be a member of ELTA-Rhine and we wish her the best of luck with her new challenges. We extend a warm welcome to Philip Davaraj [link to profile], who is taking over from Cáít as Web Coordinator - glad to have you on board! Emma Stockton has taken over the role of Events Coordinator for 2012, in addition to being our Vice-Chair, and has be doing a fantastic job getting things planned for the year. Other than that, the remaining committee members are continuing in their roles from 2011, and I'd like to thank them for their energy and assistance.
On that note, I'd like to extend the invitation to any members who would like to be more involved in the committee. Have your say, be a part of our decision-making, help us to shape the ELTA-Rhine experience in the coming years. It's a great team to be a part of.
Did you know that ELTA currently has approximately 266 paid members and – thanks to the presence of the website and its online registration – this number is increasing? As mentioned at the AGM on March 17th, I’d like to encourage any and all members to think about taking the opportunity to use your special skills to support the activities and events that ELTA organizes. We are always happy to have extra helpers at an event to set up beforehand or to tear down afterwards. Or maybe you have computer skills and your expertise, ideas and assistance with setting up and maintaining content on the ELTA website’s Community Area would be very welcome. Equally, if you are someone who enjoys writing, then feel free to submit your articles, teaching experiences and ideas, or reviews of training events or books to the Newsletter Editor.
I hope that your 2012 has got off to a good start and I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at events.
Committee Information and News
Comings and Goings...
As every year, we welcome new members and farewell some who are taking their leave. We're pleased to note that more are coming than going! We wish those members who are leaving us all the best with your future endeavours.
Ana Elisa Fuentes
Ana Elisa Fuentes
Meet the Team - Committee and Friends
Christine grew up in England and moved to Germany in the 70s. She worked for many years as a private bilingual secretary and translator in Hamburg and Cologne, and started her own language training business in Lindlar (to the east of Cologne) just over 10 years ago, specialising in corporate language training and language trips for business professionals. Five years ago she finished her online degree 'Teaching Modern Languages to Adults' at the University of Dundee in Scotland, and now has more time to explore and enjoy the surrounding countryside again.
Philip Daravaj - Web Coordinator
Dr. Philip Davaraj comes to us with an enormous wealth of experience as a scientist and an English teacher. Born in India, he studied Science there before doing his Ph. D. between the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and University of Kaiserslautern, Germany. He teaches Scientific English, Technical English, and English for Engineering and I.T., as well as standard language classes, Presentation Skills, and Intercultural Training, amongst other things. Philip is well known in ELTA-Rhine for his energy and sense of humour. Welcome aboard, Philip!
Thérèse grew up in Boston, Massachussets, and earned a B.A. degree in English and music at the University of Utah and Berklee. After working an assistant for English correspondence at the law firm of Oppenhoff & Partners, she began freelancing in 2003. Currently, she is a young learners' trainer in kindergarten. For private firms as well as at the VHS she has done in-house training for "false beginners", taught conversation and BEC exam preparation courses and gives one-to-one lessons. She sings in the ELTA choir and plays and teaches the flute.
Judith is a freelance English teacher based in Cologne, having emigrated from Australia in 2002. Before moving to Germany, she worked in as a teacher in Australian schools and dabbled in freelance journalism, working for, among others, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Alongside her teaching, she is an Oral Examiner for the Cambridge University ESOL exams, and has just finished an M.A. in Linguistics at the University of Cologne. In her spare time she sings with the ELTA choir, and has a passion for annoying people with linguistic irrelevancies.
Mike is an English language trainer now living on the wrong side of the Rhine, yet enjoying the serenity it has to offer. Previously working in Japan as a language trainer, he came to Cologne in 2002 and was somehow permitted to stay and raise a family. He has worked for numerous language schools, as an IELTS examiner, and finally finished his Masters in Applied Linguistics in 2010. Since 2007, he has focused on building up his own business contracting directly with companies for language training, enjoying the successes and failures this has brought. When not working he can be found changing nappies or relaxing on the swing set.
Karina Kellermann has been teaching English to Germans for over four years and still likes doing it! She moved to Germany four years ago from the sunny Caribbean where she was born, after completing her Bachelor’s in Modern Languages. Having worked for several language schools, she recently succeeded in joining the teaching service and is now in the employ of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia. She has always loved writing and now counts the readers of the ELTA-Rhine newsletter among her unwilling victims. She lives on the right side of Cologne (and is proud of it!) with her husband and way too many plants.
Lilly is a freelance English teacher based in Cologne, having emigrated from Ireland in 2002. Before moving to Germany, she worked in a voluntary organisation organising and teaching "Potential Instructor / Examiners Courses", having completed a Trainer of Trainers certified course and obtained an Extra Mural Certificate with St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Dublin. She also taught Occupational First Aid Courses to businesses for more than 20 years. Alongside her teaching, she is also a qualified Interior Designer and still maintains a keen eye on creative trends. In her spare time she works on a voluntary basis for the German Irish Club in Düsseldorf organising student exchange programmes for schools, among other tasks.
Most of you ELTA-Rhine members should know me. I’ve been quite active on the committee for the past 8 - 10 years. I was born and brought up in Sri Lanka, came over to Cologne from Paris with the goal of learning German and stayed on. After finishing my studies as a certified translator I did the CELTA and started teaching in 1993. Most of my work is at Universities of Applied Sciences. I enjoy keeping fit, watching DVDs and going out with friends.
Uwe is a freelance English trainer based in Erkrath, a stone's throw away from the famous Neanderthal. With a working background of almost 20 years in Human Resources, he provides business English training both for organisations and individual clients. He is on the examination board of the Düsseldorf Chamber of Commerce and Industry. When he is not in class, he often does translations with HR topics or for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. If not that, he is often seen riding his bike in the Neanderthal and surroundings.
Emma Stockton is a freelance business English trainer living on the outskirts of Cologne. She originally comes from Scotland and has lived in various parts of the world since leaving Scotland at the age of 18. She ended up in Germany 15 years ago, more or less by chance, and stayed here. She has lately become a grandmother and has a tendency to wax lyrical about her grandkids whenever the opportunity arises, so watch out! As well as teaching English, Emma has recently completed the Choice in Coaching training with the Arbinger Institute, which is based in the USA, and is very excited about working with their materials. When not working, Emma loves to knit, she reads voraciously, goes for long walks in the countryside and cooks with great passion.
ELTA-Rhine Budget 2012
Inter-ELTA Meeting 3rd March 2012
Emma Stockton, reporting en-route from Munich
As I write this I am sitting on the train on my way home from the Inter-ELTA meeting, which took place yesterday in Munich, and I know I had better finish it now as the newsletter deadline is looming!
What, you ask, is Inter-ELTA? Well, in reality, Inter-ELTA only comes into being once a year when various representatives of the eight German ELTAs (http://www.elta-rhine.de/Other_ELTAs) come together to swap information, share stories and experiences and talk about trends and changes in our teaching world. The venue rotates among the home cities of the ELTAs and this year took place in the wonderful modern building which houses the VHS, near the river Isar in Munich. Last year it was in Hamburg and the year before that in Bielefeld. Next March the Stuttgart ELTA have offered to host it.
After introducing ourselves and settling down to the start of what proved to be an interesting day, we spent some time sharing statistical and other practical information relating to the number of members we have and membership fees charged, as well as issues about events, newsletters, websites etc. The details are probably not interesting enough to write about here, but I would like to hand on some of the information that may be more directly relevant to you, our members.
We heard about events/conferences/workshops that some people are either planning to travel to or organising:
- IATEFL in Glasgow 19th to 23rd March, 2012: http://www.iatefl.org (see review in this edition: We’re all m-learners now)
- IATEFL BESIG Summer Symposium in Paris on June 16th 2012, with keynote speaker David Crystal: http://www.besig.org
- ELTAF conference in Frankfurt: http://www.eltaf.de. This is a biennial one-day conference organised by our sister ELTA in Frankfurt, which I have heard is well worth going to. The keynote speaker this year is Mark Powell. As an ELTA-Rhine member you can book at the members' price. Early bird bookings €55, normal price €65.
- A 3-day event for teachers of young learners is in planning for 31st August to 2nd September in Berlin, organised by ELTABB. Keep an eye on their website and/or our elist for details: http://www.eltabb.com
- The Annual IATEFL BESIG conference will take place in Stuttgart this year from 16th to 18th November and you can find details here: www.besig.org
Also, Christine Taylor-Dorenkamp, who is a former committee member at ELTAF and is now on their advisory board, is interested in setting up a Germany-wide special interest group for teachers of young learners, so if you teach them or know others who do, she would love to hear from you/them. Her plan is to set up events and networking. Let me know if you are interested and I will put you in touch with her.
Another point that came out is that ELTA-Rhine is the only ELTA that does not charge members an additional, if nominal, fee for workshops. So that we can continue in this vein, please remember that if you have checked the "Doodle" to say you are coming to a workshop and subsequently change your plans, you need to go online and uncheck it! The "Doodle" link is always on the website under Future Events.
As I was to be officially taking over from Vasanthi Sarnow as the new Events Coordinator at the AGM, I listened with particular interest to the discussions about events, which took place at various moments during the day. Which ELTA has hosted which speaker and which events? Many of those mentioned are already in our plan for this year, but two of them that I would be particularly interested to hear from you about are described below:
MELTA (Munich) offered a First Aid workshop, which was completely booked out with a waiting list and a second one is therefore scheduled. This was given in English and was a great success. All participants were issued with a first aid certificate at the end.
A couple of ELTAs are also in discussion with their local branch of the GEW (Gewerkschaft für Erziehung und Gewissenschaft) about a workshop relating to insurance and legal matters, albeit in German.
Please let me know if you would like to attend such a workshop.
If you missed Petra Pointer's workshop last year on Twitter, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zOCVqfg4FU to her talking on the topic on You Tube. This is the first of four parts.
Another recommendation was Karenne Sylvester's blog where she gives ideas about using TED for teaching English: http://kalinago.blogspot.com/2011/09/10-speaking-english-activities-using.html
Before going our separate ways, we were shown the Ning platform, used by both MELTA and ELTABB in a similar way to how we use our Yahoo elist. An interesting idea to (maybe) replace our elist sometime in the not-so-near future. But really, why mess with a well-running system?
I also briefly showed the meeting our new online presence, which was greeted with much interest and acclaim. In particular, those ELTAs who are also thinking of changing to or setting up an online newsletter were interested to see and hear how ours looks and functions.
All too soon, the day was over and before we dispersed to our own corners of Germany again, we agreed that a full, inspiring and informative day had been had by all.
Comment from our Members
Corinne Lutz takes her leave from ELTA-Rhine this year, after many years with us. We wish her well for a comfortable and well-earned retirement!
“How can the publishing companies be wrong? They have highly qualified experts.”
That was always the countervailing comment when I suggested that it was wrong to teach beginners the continuous form of the verb and the present perfect as the first past tense.
I have been reflecting on the minutiae of my teaching life. This was triggered by our recently formed grammar group, called into being by eager young teachers. I was all fired up when I read about it and anxious to share 50 years of experience. Fifty years of hunting and gathering articles and ideas, creating exercises and charts. Fifty years of trying to do a good job. Just like all of you.
Looking back it is hard not to consider teaching EFL a Sisyphean labor. We are like plumbers running around fixing the holes in pipes, but nobody turns off the water. We spend so much time trying to re-teach what was not taught properly from the beginning. The course participants come to us handicapped. It is so difficult to change what they have learned and practiced for ten years. We have to try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Why is this so and must it be this way? You have heard this from me before. At a tender and impressionable age fifth graders learn wrongly - and not only here in Germany. I listened to interviews with the top guns at the WEF in Davos. Yes, they do communicate despite a multitude of mistakes with verb tenses. But have we not done all English learners a disservice by not teaching it right from the beginning? I stopped writing to Hueber, Cornelsen etc. many years ago. I was one voice in the wilderness and an odd ball American to my “gymnasial” colleagues.
Our best prospects of stopping our Sisyphean labor is to prevail on all text book publishers to revamp the books. Just changing the introduction of tenses – present and then past, the most frequently used tenses - would be a big help for us. It is not a matter of teaching grammar or not. It is not a matter of good exercises, charts, stories. It is not a matter of tricks and prompts and clever ideas, nor the fantastic possibilities electronic devices offer us. All of this is necessary, to be sure, but the biggest help would be to teach right from the very beginning. There are so many points of grammar and expression and vocabulary that have to be mastered and we spend valuable time on remedial work with verbs.
Now that I am bowing out of the profession, I envisage the young eager teachers following my same trajectory, walking the same treadmill. I of the older generation would like to see the new crew have it better. That will not happen until beginner books are changed. A concerted effort from a prestigious group, ELTA for example, might be able to convince publishers to change and improve.
Lest this all sound dreary and pessimistic - had I not enjoyed it, had I not been committed, I could not have taught so long. Doggedly chipping away at corners and edges, I did see improvement. In fact, at times all the coordinates were right on. I sometimes thought, “This is fun and I get paid for it!”
Sense and Sensitivity
Kay von Randow on rediscovering the senses, and using them to liven up our lessons
I think it’s really important to continually check back to ‘source’ - and by that I mean our own essential, inner selves – to see if the whats/hows of our teaching are a) in line with the original conception, b) actually delivering the goods, c) need refining. I see my teaching role as complex: to create a ‘safe space’ where students can relax and be receptive to learning, to present information for them to learn, and to motivate them to take part in the work and move to a level of greater competency in English.
Ideally, a student is both open and receptive, otherwise improvements can be slow, resulting in both teacher and pupil becoming dissatisfied. When we philosophise about the advantages of learning a language the natural way like a child, we tend to forget that a child doesn’t only listen (Sense of Hearing) but also uses other senses as memory tags. The human brain stores pieces of information not in ‘isolation’, but with complex tags to aid recall. For example: the memory of the pain from a vaccination (Sense of Touch) is intensely revived when one visits someone in hospital and is faced with that ‘hospital smell’. The Sense of Smell has hauled the stored information about the pain from the brain. And the conversations between the doctor - parents – us are also remembered (Sense of Hearing).
So let’s recall our five senses: Taste/Smell/Touch/Sight/Hearing. These are our sensors to the world, the antennae over which information is picked up, sorted and stored for future use. We know that babies continually make contact to their world through the senses. This is the way they learn. Hearing is a sense they were already using in the womb. The Touch of the mother’s hands .... that first instinct to put everything in their mouth (Taste) ... Sight and Smell playing an increasing role. Of course, this differs from child to child; our visitors were very amused that my son would crawl over to smell their shoes, and I never met other babies who did this. But this was the way he wanted to explore his world.
Moving on: books for little children are built on exploring the world through the senses, and the actual content is not so story-based. When you look at books for older children, on the other hand, you notice a shift: the role of language as a medium for action and drama and stimulating the brain is firmly established, and the senses play a very minor role.
I still remember the thrill I had as a teenager reading the novels of Charles Dickens, which were compulsory in our English Language lessons at school, because his marvellous descriptive passages evoked a sense of richness that I’d ‘forgotten’. The detailed language – very sense-orientated – successfully transported me into his world and times, and I began to understand the books on a whole new level - though I couldn’t have said what this was! It simply was so! There has been a trend in modern fictional writing to show how powerful a role the senses can play in our lives: e.g. An Astonishing Splash of Colour (2003) by Clare Morrall, in which synaesthesia plays a role, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010) by Aimee Bender, in which a young girl finds she can taste the emotions of the people who’ve prepared the food she eats.
So where is this leading to? To the realisation that we can support our students in their learning process by bringing in more sensory perception. For example: I’ve picked a Business English textbook off the shelf at random .... it’s a well-organised compact book by a reputable author and publisher .... but it’s dry as dust. Another one .... also not inspiring. Why? Because although all the requisite vocabulary (Meetings/Negotiations/Writing Emails) is covered, along with a continuous grammar feed, it’s all just words on a page. Words for the brain to learn and use. And probably forget! And the clever exercises, dialogues and quizzes are only reinforcing this by rote learning, but without making many more connections in the brain, as happens when you introduce a sensory element.
But let’s select a couple of sentences to show how it could be different (from a section to do with Small Talk and Socialising):
In the Pub
Original: Before you begin your new drink, you should say ‘Cheers’ to your companions.
New: Hey - what a lot of noisy rituals the English have, like when the chap with a new pint says ‘Cheers’ and all the people he’s sitting with roar ‘Cheers’ back. (Can’t you just hear them?)
Original: Business people often eat lunch in a pub.
New: Mmm - it’s great to have a pub like the ‘Bell and Whistle’ just round the corner from the office, where we can pop in each day. The smell of their pies and quiches greets you outside in the street. And the taste stays with you till the afternoon cuppa. (Are you also wondering what the food smells and tastes like?).
A wonderful bonus here is the potential for indulging in conversation and actively practising ‘Small Talk’:
Jared: Does the food in your local pub also smell so good?
Tom: It doesn’t have any cooked food.
Jared: None at all?
Tom: Only peanuts.
Jared: So where do you go to eat at lunchtime?
Tom: I don’t. I take rolls with cheese and sausage to work.
Jared: And there’s a room in the company where you go to sit and eat?
Tom: No, we all eat at our desks.
Jared: Doesn’t your office then smell of food? Could be unpleasant for a potential customer.
Tom: They’re used to it because they do the same at work.
Jared: So you don’t spend a lot of time socialising at lunch time?
Tom: No, we soon begin work again. We are there to work, not eat.
... instead of theorising about it from a book!!! Oh - and there are no prizes for guessing which countries this little dialogue could have taken place in! By introducing the element of sensory perception, we livened up the proceedings to such an extent that it not only brought in easily remembered images, but also led naturally into conversation. After all, shouldn’t that be our aim - to help our students remember the vocabulary they need to speak and communicate naturally in English?
Dealing with difficult classes
Karina Kellermann asked for help and received it. Now she passes on the advice.
Not too long ago I sent out a plea for help on the e-list. I was so surprised by and grateful for the many responses I received, and realising thereby how common this situation is, I thought I'd share the advice I got in case it might help someone else.
For those of you who missed the original message, I've been assigned a class this semester that I have to share with the previous teacher. I teach three out of every four lessons and the previous teacher does the remaining lesson. The class gets along very well with the previous teacher and after the first three weeks, I felt so frustrated at the negative atmosphere and comments in the class that I cried for help.
I was very touched by the responses I got (a heartfelt thank you again to all those who emailed or called) and have condensed the responses into a manageable form as shown below:
Possible reasons for negative atmosphere:
1. The students are insecure: they're out of their comfort zone and don't know what to expect from their new teacher or what I expect from them. They're afraid of looking stupid or, if they make mistakes, they might think this reflects badly on the previous teacher.
2. They may want to assert their authority. The new teacher has to be tested to see how much he/she can take.
3. The students are resentful of the decision to assign them a new teacher. They do not feel in control of their learning and (perhaps unintentionally) take out their frustration on the visible person: the new teacher.
4. Gender issue: the previous teacher is a young friendly male and the women in the class could resent having "lost" their male teacher to a young female teacher. Men in the class may also not respect a female teacher as much as they do a male.
The following strategies for coping which I received have been ranked according to my opinion as to the order in which to try them out:
Everyone recommended talking, whether talking to the class or to the trouble-makers individually. If talking to the whole class, then I could elicit their expectations of the lesson, of the teacher, of their fellow students. The problems of the current learning situation, as well as the advantages of the previous teacher's lessons (teaching style, personality, activities etc.), could be noted down and discussed in the class. Then, solutions to the problems could be identified or brainstormed by the class as a whole or individually. A group solution could be come up with, perhaps new classroom behaviour rules and everyone, including me, sticks to them.
Pointing out the benefits of a new teacher was also suggested: different teaching style, accent, activities, as well as the advantages of my teaching method for them. Reference could be made to the fact that they have to learn to work and get along with people of diverse backgrounds and that this skill is vital in their work and school lives.
Talking to the trouble-makers, especially if they are the loud minority, could also solve the problem. They may be self-conscious when not in front of their peers and embarrassed at being seen as a problem.
The important thing when having this discussion, especially on a classroom-level, is to remain professional while being understanding of their situation and feelings. At the same time keeping control of the class, and not shouting while doing so, is also the key to gaining and maintaining their respect.
Changing my teaching style/compromising
Another solution or a parallel strategy could be, after discussing with the class their expectations of a teacher, to speak to the previous teacher of the lesson. Then I could incorporate certain aspects of his/her teaching style and methods into my lessons. This could be communicated to the class as well, so that they see I am making an effort to compromise in order to make the lessons work.
Tell them to deal with it
This one sounds harsh but is a possibility if the class remains resistant to the change, despite the above-mentioned attempts at making it work. The students, who in my case are there voluntarily, can be told that the decision was taken at administrative-level and cannot be changed. In this discussion, the students' own goals for the class and their reasons for learning English can be placed as the ultimate goal, and pointing out the negative effects their resistance to the new teacher can have on those goals could make them at least be tolerant of the change.
Get management to speak to the class
This strategy is a last-ditch effort to make it work: get the decision-maker to speak to the class and motivate them to accept the new teacher. This has quite a few drawbacks, namely that the authority of the teacher is undermined and that management will know that the teacher is having difficulty with the class. The previous teacher could also be asked to speak to the class and use his/her influence to motivate them.
Give up the class
If all else fails, and if it is possible, hand over the class to another teacher. In my case, this could be the previous teacher if he/she wants it, or to a completely new teacher.
... So, how has it been going with me? The situation is far from resolved but there has been some progress. Before implementing the communication strategy, I decided to speak to the other teachers of the class. I found out that certain students cause trouble in every subject and one teacher suggested that the general work ethic of the class might be the problem. That was a relief! Knowing now that it wasn't necessarily personal, I chose to observe the class for another few lessons and see whether I could identify the trouble-makers.
Last week, after I'd come up with my list of disruptive/disrespectful students (unfortunately nearly a third!), another student spoke to me at the end of the lesson: she is being constantly disturbed by these trouble-makers and cannot concentrate. So now I had to intervene. I chose to have an individual discussion with the troublesome students I had identified. This discussion took place last Thursday. Unfortunately, not all of the ones I wanted to speak to were there, but those that were mentioned several factors for their being restless: small room, last lesson of the day, other students who distract them. None of the factors, even though I hinted at it, had to do with me personally or the English lesson in itself.
So the next step: discussion on a classroom-level. I plan to have a discussion with the whole class in the next lesson and brainstorm reasons for the negative atmosphere and come up with solutions. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it works. I'll keep you posted :)
(also on cover teaching, see: Taking Cover in the Hot Potato section of this edition)
The Hardest Step is the First One
Teaching a group of absolute beginners can be daunting for both students and teachers. Pat Schmitz takes us over the hurdle of the first few lessons.
When I first started teaching adults for the VHS in a rural area, I took over well-established classes from a German colleague. All the courses were A2 level upwards and I used the books from my predecessor. Then I was asked to start two new courses and I had complete freedom of choice in teaching methods and any text book I wanted. The only snag was the adults were all beginners. No distant memories of school English to connect up to. Definitely the wrong age group to sing and enact head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Well, not in the first lesson anyway.
The two questions I asked myself were "Why didn’t my students have any knowledge of the English language?", and "What were their reasons for learning English?"
My first class consisted of senior citizens whose education had been confined to eight years of village schooling, with no foreign languages on the curriculum. Some had the urge to travel and the time to do so. Others felt totally inadequate in a world where their grandchildren learn English in junior school and wanted to prove that they were not too old to learn and at least recognise all the foreign words creeping into German. Definitely a case for useful general and tourist vocabulary, plus very basic grammar. Cornelsen offers a series of books geared to this generation - Sterling Silver 1 and 2, and Sterling Silver - Going for Gold as a follow up, which then builds on more grammatical structures for independent sentence forming as opposed to learning standard phrases.
With 24 units it offers basic conversations set around various people who meet on a cruise and other journeys. The dialogues practise introductions, talking about hobbies, the family and vocabulary useful around the breakfast table. There are a lot of explanations written in German, especially the cultural aspects of English-speaking countries and what to do and not to do - don’t forget to tip the waiter in the USA and always queue in Britain, for example.
The other class was completely different - a mix of younger people with children in school and older people, again with grandchildren, from Eastern Europe or East Germany, who were never allowed to have contact with the English language. They were very ambitious and wanted to learn their new chosen language thoroughly. After hours and hours of looking through text books, some with very ambitious grammar in the first unit, others with a listening comprehension lurking on every page, which would make me feel more like a DJ than a teacher, once again Cornelsen came to the rescue with their series of First Choice. The grammar is easy and builds up sentences bit by bit throughout the book, ending with a touch of simple past and present progressive.
Having solved the problem of which text book to use, the next step was how to even start teaching in the first lessons, when the students don’t have the course book yet, and build on their non-existent knowledge. Some adults have good memories of sitting in a classroom and others not so good, so the first evening can be just as daunting to them as to the teacher. Unlike school children, adults choose to go to lessons, but don’t have much time to learn - 90 minutes a week in the course and maybe get around to the homework set. Some go not only to learn but to meet other people. I also found a lot of my students to be very shy, full of complexes from yesteryear brought on by teachers who crowned them as being academic dunces. Also, many students suspected the others to be language geniuses just waiting to show them up. I didn’t speak English at the beginning either. Ideally students should hear as much English as possible but I wanted my students to come back the next week!
With both courses, I started with saying my name is… I was born in… and I live in…writing this on the blackboard along with the questions what is your name? where were you born? where do you live? After asking each in turn I then encouraged my students to ask each other, breaking the ice, finding out that the others were also beginners.
The next psychological step was to show the students just how much English they already know. I wrote headings on the board - song titles and computer language in English. I set the ball rolling by asking what a laptop was and where could you use it when sitting on the sofa - on top of your lap. I explained what brainstorming is and gathered all sorts of vocabulary. When the students realised just how many English words they really knew they felt uplifted.
Onto the next phase - I handed out an exercise I developed myself:
Wenn Sie mit dem Sprachenlernen beginnen, begegnen Ihnen permanent neue Vokabeln, die Sie sich einprägen müssen. Zum Glück gibt es viele Wörter, die im Deutschen und Englischen sehr ähnlich oder bereits im deutschen Sprachraum recht verbreitet sind.
banana • bank • bear • bus • café • carrot • chocolate • cigarette • circus • club • cocktail bar • coffee • concert hall • cornflakes • elephant • film • fish • football stadium • giraffe • opera • panda • park • penguin • police station • pony • reptile • rice • salad • shop • shopping centre • spaghetti • taxi • tea • theatre • tiger • tram • whisky •
Versuchen Sie, diese Begriffe thematisch nach den folgenden Kategorien zu sortieren:
In the restaurant: coffee, tea…
In the zoo: tiger,…
In the evening:
Then in groups the students brainstormed more words themselves. The atmosphere was great as each group tried to outdo the others with the number of words.
To end the lesson, which went by so quickly, I practised numbers up to twenty and let the students do simple arithmetic - two and two is …
Of course, that was just the start, after which I could fall back on the text book. However, I like to be more creative and students always appreciate individual learning methods to suit their characters and learning abilities. Repetition is the most important exercise for the first few lessons so the next time I might add to the what is your name? introduction the question what is your job? and brainstorm these words. Vocabulary themes are useful along with the matching verb - I can read a newspaper, book …I can eat a banana… I can drink... and so on. I also hand out cards with simplified survival phrases such as I don’t understand you, can you repeat that please?… which should always be used to ask the teacher a question.
The greatest job satisfaction I experienced through two students. One younger woman from East Germany, whose children were learning English in grammar school, came to me before the summer break and said she wouldn’t be coming back. She was never going to travel to England or the USA and her children’s knowledge of the language was so far beyond her ever being able to help with their homework. You can imagine my surprise when she was sitting there in the autumn. She had been to a Greek island with her husband where no-one spoke German, but the “wow” effect came to her when she told her husband not to use the lift because of the sign on the door saying “out of order”.
The other student was a 55-year-old mother of six girls and grandmother of as many grandchildren, originally from Siberia, who desperately needed to get out of the house. She was very quiet and shy, diligently did her homework, never confident of ever learning anything in her life. One evening she came to me and showed me what she had bought with her hard-earned cleaning money - a Russian/English dictionary. Now that is proof of what you can achieve with beginners courses.
Sterling Silver 1 -978-3-464-20410-8
First Choice A1- 978-3-464-01936-8
(Mis) Adventures in Bilingualism: A Play in 3½ Acts
Elizabeth Hormann, on the drama of language learning
By the then-prevailing standards in the USA, I grew up in a linguistically and culturally cosmopolitan household. My mother had majored in French at university. My father’s stint with the Merchant Marine took him to Europe and ever after he was in awe of the ability of the man on the European street to communicate with him in English. Opportunities to learn a second language in the schools of post-war America were limited, but it was always understood that once I got to high school I would have a chance to learn whatever foreign language was on offer.
That language turned out – to my mother’s disappointment - to be Spanish. I spent three happy years learning it, trying it out on my South American classmates and, I may modestly report, taking home Spanish prizes in two of those years. I even came in 4th in the state-wide spoken Spanish competition [close but, alas, no Cuban cigar].
It was about the same time that one of the ubiquitous Russian countesses who peopled American urban landscapes during the Cold War moved into the flat below us. My mother was ecstatic. She had lived in Paris. She could teach me French! My enthusiasm was more muted, but I dutifully went downstairs once a week to spend an hour among the velvet curtains and lace tablecloths in a room lit largely by red votive lights under the icons – and I did, in fact, learn a fair amount of French. Later I topped it off with a one-year university course, but French did not make my heart sing the way Spanish and German [also acquired at university] did.
One might assume that marrying my long-time German pen-pal [another tale for another time] would have created the ideal setting for spiffing up my still-rudimentary German. One would be wrong. For my partner, enchanted with the Land of Opportunity, only English would do for our discourse. But the door to German was not entirely shut. In the manner of the time, conducting the family correspondence fell within my bailiwick – and my in-laws did not speak English. The slight handicap that I’d learned German in an experimental grammar-free class would not, my partner told me, be a barrier. Echoing my erstwhile German professors, he assured me the grammar would sort itself out “automatically” if I wrote regularly. I did; it didn’t - though a dozen years of exchanging letters helped maintain the miniscule facility with the language I did have. Two trips to Germany added to my disorderly stock of German, but for most of the first 20 years I “knew” German it was like listening to short-wave radio. Occasionally the reception was quite good; most of the time it faded in and out. It was rather like conversing under water next to a noisy motor boat.
I was in my late 30’s, by then a single parent with three teenagers and two teenagers-in-training, when I was suddenly seized by the thought that this would be the perfect time to sort out my little difficulties with German grammar. I enrolled in a twice-weekly class at the Goethe Institute, thereby inadvertently setting off a chain of events that completely changed all of our lives. If the class had only been an oasis of tranquility, it would have been worthwhile, but the teaching was brilliant - stimulating, challenging and fun. In two years I had my first German competency certificate and I was hooked. I went on for a second certificate.
During my third year at the Institute my teacher handed me a flyer on an exchange program in Germany for people in my line of work. It looked great; it looked impossible; I put it away. The day before the deadline I took it out, thought – “nothing ventured…” and dashed off an application. Within a few days the German Embassy phoned to tell me - at considerable length - that I was too old for the program. “Why didn’t you choose a birth date 3 or 4 years later?” the embassy caller moaned. I pointed out – reasonably, I thought – that I wasn’t actually involved in the selection of my birth date – and besides it was on my passport. She sighed and hung up. I put the whole thing out of my mind. Five months later I was offered a place in the program.
Arranging for a 4 month leave of absence and the children who were still at home was an adventure in itself. In the end the two youngest – then 10 and 14 - came with me, stayed with friends, went to school and – to my amazement - easily “picked up” German. Back home, they went to the German Saturday School their older sisters had attended before high school Spanish absorbed all their linguistic attention.
Two years later we moved to Cologne. Both children managed well with German; the younger one also continued with the French he had had since 2nd grade and eventually chose it as one of his Abitur subjects.
Because learning German [and other languages] was so easy for both of these children, I assumed that “total immersion” was all anyone really needed [keep in mind that linguistics and language acquisition are not my fields of expertise]. With the next generation I learned better.
After a quarter of a century in Cologne and the acquisition of two more German-language certificates, genuine bilingualism still eludes me but my German is pretty good - adequate for teaching and writing. The next two generations come closer to being thoroughly bilingual. Even after a 12 year hiatus in the UK, my daughter quickly slipped back into German when she returned to Cologne. Within days, her 3 year old was in kindergarten, the 8 year old in an integration class – and that’s where it got interesting.
Like his mother before him, the older child was chattering in German before the month was out; the younger one happily went to kindergarten, stayed silent there for 6 months, then began talking in full German sentences – at which point her English took on the grammar and word order of German. Time and consistent repetition of the correct forms for her hybrid sentences brought about considerable improvement but it was not until we spent a month in the US that – almost from the first day - it magically sorted itself out. We observe much the same linguistic mish-mash with the current 4 year old and expect it too will sort itself out.
Why one child can easily keep the languages separate right from the start and another needs lots of time and help to do so is not entirely clear to me - you linguists out there can probably provide a lucid explanation. What is clear is that language is primarily about communication and if we aspire to bi- or tri- or even multilingualism for ourselves or our families, the first order of business is ensuring that everyone is comfortable expressing themselves. The fine points of linguistic correctness will come mostly with time, exposure to correct use of language, and practice. Correcting mistakes – especially with children – requires diplomacy and a light hand so learning isn’t discouraged. Here are some of the strategies we’ve found helpful.
Be clear and consistent about which language is spoken where. English is the language of both our households. If we have company who don’t speak English we speak German – even to each other.
Model correct use of language – we make an effort (not always successfully) not to get drawn into speaking “Ginglish”. We try to keep the impulse to correct mistakes within bounds. Repeating the sentence correctly usually gets a better response than outright correction (1).
Read, read, read – in both languages. Young children absorb both language and culture through stories, poetry and nursery rhymes [as well as songs]. For older children [and adult learners], combining reading and listening can be an effective way of fixing the language[s]. Whether it’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, The Little Prince or all 7 volumes of Harry Potter, putting on the earphones and following the spoken and written texts simultaneously is a magical experience.
Live theatre can also be a magic and memorable way of experiencing language.
Films have their place but they are a more passive way of learning. We often put the sub-titles on to reinforce reading skills [our own as well as the children’s!].
No doubt there are many strategies that haven’t occurred to us but these have helped three generations of our family acquire reasonable facility in two (and sometimes more) languages.
Back in the mists of time when I was a small girl, my parents took me to see The Secret Garden. Like every film I’d seen before, it was in black and white. Quite suddenly, as it reached the dénouement, there was a burst of color (2). I’ve never forgotten the wonder of that. It’s as good a metaphor as any for the eye-opening experience of moving out of a monolingual world into the colorful and more expansive worlds of bi- and tri- and even multilingualism.
© Elizabeth Hormann
18th September 2011
(1) Q: “Did he went in the Krankenwagen?” A: “Did he go in the ambulance? Yes, he went in the ambulance”
(2) The magic moment is about 5 minutes into this 6 minute Youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9phTC9O9QLI
The How-to Exam Section
Language at Work - The IHK English at the Workplace Exam
Uwe Stichert, on an exam it pays to know about
A couple of weeks ago, during a meeting at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) Düsseldorf, the question came up of whether some of the topics we were discussing might be interesting for ELTA-Rhine members who are not so fortunate as to live and work in and around our state capital (my apologies, Cologne, I couldn’t resist).
I serve on two of their examination boards for job-related English, one being for young people in vocational training, the other English at the Workplace (Fremdsprache im Beruf). Note, it says ”Fremdsprache“, although so far the exam has only been developed for English.
Our meeting was about some possible modifications to that exam because we had collected three years of experience up to that point and the IHK felt it was a good time to talk about lessons learned. One of the issues was that we kept receiving candidates from the greater Cologne area. A more than average percentage of those candidates failed or just barely passed at the first attempt, so we started asking them after the orals how they had prepared. With the fresh memory of what the actual exam looked and felt like, quite a few of them told us that, in retrospect, they were now unhappy with the intensity of the training and the amount of information that they had received from the organization or trainers who had prepared them.
So, the questions raised by the head of the department responsible for foreign language exams at the IHK were something like: Would it be an idea to present this exam Fremdsprache im Beruf (generally referred to as FIB) to ELTA trainers? Would it be interesting, for instance, for those working in a corporate environment to learn more about it? Would it be interesting for trainers to be able to offer targeted preparation for FIB to their clients and companies?
My answer being a Yes to all those questions, I offered to write about it. One could argue that there are undoubtedly enough examinations around in the market. In my experience, however, it still holds true that, if a job applicant presents an IHK certificate, it will usually mean more to the average HR person in a German small or medium-sized enterprise than an FCE, CAE, or BEC. In my opinion this is reason enough to have some basic information about FIBbing (I am sure you could see the pun coming).
Let’s read first what the IHK itself says about FIB (published in ”Berufe aktuell“, translated by me):
The right word at the right time – fortunate are those speakers who find it both in their native tongue and in a foreign language as well. This is particularly true in a job-related situation. “When you are on holiday, it may be acceptable to muddle through, dictionary in hand. In your professional surroundings, however, it is important to be confident in English", says Iris Kremp, responsible for the Department of Further Education at the IHK Düsseldorf. This is why the IHK Düsseldorf offers an exam with the title of English at the Workplace. It is intended for professionals with a commercial, technological or scientific background and for trainees working in small, medium-sized and larger companies of all industrial sectors. Running their day-to-day business means understanding texts in a foreign language, explaining facts and figures, having telephone conversations, giving presentations and holding meetings. This is exactly what the candidates will be able to prove in the written and oral parts of the exam English at the Workplace. It begins with a formal email in English, then a memo. The oral part consists of a role play. Two or three candidates give each other a presentation, which is then followed by a discussion. Finally, the topic of ”Intercultural Competence“ is also included. The candidates will have to show that they can deal in an adequate fashion with their foreign business partners when problems and conflicts arise.
This exam is offered with three focus areas: Commerce and Industry, Process-oriented Corporate Communication and Information Technology.
So far, so good. I am sure, though, that this little text will give rise to further questions, so allow me to explain some more.
If you check out the website
it will tell you that the exam is CEF level B2. Experience shows that many candidates begin on a distinctly lower level. It is generally considered a good idea to tell prospective candidates that about 120 – 180 hours of teaching will be necessary before they stand a good chance of passing.
The written and the oral parts take place on two different days, with approximately four weeks in between. Both the written and the oral exams form part of a scenario taken from the world of business, with a storyline that runs through the various tasks.
In the written exam candidates are required to write a formal email, an informal email and a memo. Each of these documents is based on the previous one. The starting point is always a brief introduction to the scenario with detailed instructions about the candidate’s role (usually a trainee or an assistant). The starting point could be, for example, a company’s plan to develop a new product and now they are contacting possible producers in Asia. This would call for the initial formal email in which the candidate inquires about production facilities, terms and conditions, references etc.
The next step is an informal email as a reaction to information received in connection with this project. This might involve pointing out a problem, making arrangements, asking for support and so on and so forth.
Part 3 of the written exam is a memo, which is usually based on a message left on an answerphone. This message is spoken in English, but the memo is supposed to be written in German.
Any training for this exam should keep an eye on strict timing, since the candidates will have only 30 minutes to accomplish each task. This has proven to be quite demanding especially with the formal email.
The oral exam takes place 4-6 weeks later and it also consists of three parts. A major difference lies in the fact that these parts have to be completed in a group of three candidates (or two, if the total number of candidates does not allow groups of three). The scenario is a continuation of the project which was started in the written exam and the three different roles are allocated to the candidates by luck of the draw at the beginning of the 30-minute preparation period. In this period they prepare individually. In the ensuing exam, however, they are expected to interact as a group. The quality of this interaction is graded along with the content, grammar, pronunciation etc.
Part 1 is a simulated telephone conference with the aim of arranging a joint meeting. During this meeting (parts 2 and 3) the candidates each give a small presentation (max. 5 minutes) based on a chart that they were given in the preparation period. These presentations lead to a 15-minute discussion in which the successful candidate will have to address several problems or conflicts designed into the scenario.
I hope I have been able to convey a basic idea about what is behind the exam Fremdsprache im Beruf. It is fairly complex to schedule and design, which, along with the total number of candidates from NRW, is probably the reason why other IHKs agreed to pool competence and responsibility in Düsseldorf. Anyone interested in preparing clients for such an exam should refer to the website mentioned above or contact me for further details:
Judith Ellis, on the hidden gems and pitfalls in the minefield of replacement teaching
When I first got my teaching diploma, I was working in a market research call-centre, and desperate for something better. The lure of close to $200 a day and no marking prompted me to apply for cover teaching in the local high schools. One interview with a school principal, one enounter with an oversized seventeen-year-old giving this principal smart back-chat as she showed me around the school, and I couldn't get away fast enough. Surely it hadn't been that scary during my training...? Back to the jobs section of the newspaper.
So it was that I ended up teaching music at a 600-strong primary school. And here began my real education. The best days in that job were when specialist lessons were cancelled due to teacher shortages (ahh... no glockenspiels or recorders today...), and I was thrown unceremoniously into one of the 20 classrooms, to act as home-room teacher, English teacher, Maths teacher (hah!), Sport teacher (hmm...), even Religion teacher (?!?), for the day. A glimpse into the workings of a primary classroom gives a privileged, even intimate perspective of the methods of that teacher, and I got the chance to cover in some amazing classrooms.
One that remains cemented in my memory was a multi-level junior class (grades 0-2; ages four and a half to seven) taught by an energetic and ambitious young woman. And boy, did she run a tight ship. The morning started with a two-hour early-literacy program, in which the class divided itself automatically, somewhat like the parting of the Red Sea, into five or six different groups, checked the timetable to see which 'literacy station' (located around the room; a quiet reading corner with bean bags, a table for writing activities, area for play-acting, etc.) they had to work at that day, then check at that station to find out what activities there were which were relevant to the specific reader this particular group was reading that week. And I just watched it happen, gave permission for older kids to take the little ones to the toilet before they wet themselves, listened to a little bit of reading...
In other classrooms, I learned that laughter was allowed (or, conversely, that it was not allowed, but I tried to ignore that), or that I didn't need to know everything – the students would explain to me what had to happen. I also became aware that different classes developed group personalities, and that these were in part formed by their relationship with the regular class teacher. The class as an entity, as a countable mass noun.
But cover teaching, the 'all care, no responsibility' relative of the regular hard-yakka profession, is not always a bed of roses. Students are (so I've been told) human, and humans are creatures of habit. Take them out of their comfort zone, disturb their routine, and you can expect your own portion of discomfort.
Also human is their need to compare. And, for you as the replacement teacher, this is a lose-lose situation. Whether they love you or hate you, it can lead to inconvenience. Have you ever asked a colleague to cover your class, only to discover that the students prefer the cover teacher and request a transfer? As the cover teacher, you may think 'great, I need the work', but what happens the next time you face your displaced colleague across the staffroom table? Awkward.
And it’s certainly not better if they hate you. Not only is the lesson itself a trauma that never seems to end, but next week your colleague, the regular teacher, may well get bombarded with the class's criticisms of you, their questions about whether what you taught them was accurate, and amusing asides (they're laughing at you, not with you). All your colleague can do is smile sweetly, try not to get involved, deflect the conversation onto another path, and let it all wash over. Otherwise, it's also not going to be easy in the staffroom.
The best you can hope for is a more neutral response – that the cover lesson you taught was a nice change, without being too earth-shattering for anyone concerned. And that maybe, while covering, you got to see or do something that took you out of your comfort zone, that taught you something you didn't know about your profession.
Yes, classes develop personalities, and they can develop fierce loyalty. And that means, for me, there's a good pinch of dread in the mixed feelings about cover teaching: whether I'm the cover or the regular teacher, I have an instinctive urge to duck.
(also on cover teaching, see: Dealing with Difficult Classes in this edition)
When Do You Let Go?
By Kay von Randow
I’m sure that even the most diligent and dedicated teacher experiences moments of clarity when they realise that certain parts of their teaching aren’t working. It’s only human that not everything runs 100% smoothly. Even so, such moments can severely undermine our confidence, if we let them.
To give an example: let’s take the situation where you have a student of, say, C1 level who you’ve been teaching for over a year. The student is motivated, completes homework assignments regularly, is interested enough to watch the occasional DVD in English and listens to a weekly English podcast. The lessons – based on Business English – go well. Since the student takes part in meetings and video calls in English, you’ve spent time building up his spoken confidence as well as strengthening his originally loose connection to correct grammar usage.
Everything’s going swimmingly well. You think. And then comes the fatal moment when you automatically correct a false usage of ‘persons’ instead of ‘people’ (for example) .... and it suddenly dawns on you that your student is NOT as secure as you thought. Not only this **** word which Germans seem to find so hard to remember, but .... other moments come quietly and disturbingly flitting through your memory ... and you start wondering: Why? What should you have done differently? Of course, this example is relatively lightweight. But would you then react otherwise if, for example, you had a student who just couldn’t get the hang of when to use the present continuous, despite making excellent progress in other areas?
Again, this ‘human nature’ aspect we all have, of blaming ourselves when our students don’t make the progress we would desire, and have assessed as possible and likely, kicks in. And if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves in a downward-spiralling confusion of self-doubt.
So - what’s to be done? We have several choices at this point: the most obvious is to go over the point again, in a simpler or a more complicated way, but differently from the last time. Or we can kid ourselves into deciding it was just a momentary slip and it may or may not recur but as there are more important issues needing our time and attention we’re not going to delve deeper. Or we can be open to the fact that the student has not grasped, and based on experience, isn’t likely to grasp, this particular point.
And then we have the situation I outlined at the beginning of this article: that moment of clarity when you realise that your teaching just isn’t working. And I’d like to ask: how do you react then? At what point do you let go and say ‘Ok- this isn’t working for some reason although we’ve spent xxx time on it so I’m giving up on this one’?
Speaking personally, I have enormous difficulties letting go, as I not only feel irritated by the recurring mistake, but if I’m not careful, this ‘self-doubt’ aspect slips in before I’ve realised. The if-this-isn’t-working-what-else-should-I-be-teaching-differently aspect. And also the how-can-I call–myself-a good-teacher-when-I-ignore-such-a fault aspect. But if I can retain a balance and keep in mind that this student started at A2 level and has progressed really well in general, it certainly helps. After all, none of us is ‘perfect’ in every way, so why should we become downhearted when our students also exhibit that they’re not perfect?
So now, it’s over to you, my colleagues in teaching English as a Foreign Language: do you, and can you let go?
Making “real” articles accessible to English language learners
Speaker: Karen Richardson
January 14th, 2012
Alte Feuerwache, Cologne
Karen Richardson is originally from Britain and now lives and works in the south of Germany. She is an ELT language trainer/teacher and an ELT materials writer. She creates teaching materials for Spotlight and onestopenglish http://www.onestopenglish.com.
Subscribers can access her Guardian Weekly news lessons and non-subscribers can access the monthly news lessons on onestopenglish. She also has her own website at http://www.compass-elt.de
This energetic, interactive workshop was divided into two parts. The first part was a mixture of brainstorming and information, while the second part was hands-on practice in turning news articles into language lessons.
One of the reasons for using original materials in the ELT classroom is to help students see what is hidden language-wise by pointing things out and making them aware of different aspects of language contained in an article. Other reasons mentioned in the session included: giving students articles on current topics, increasing student confidence in reading authentic texts, and quite simply how good it makes us as teachers look when we bring our own, professional-quality, self-designed resources into class.
The first step when choosing articles and designing lessons around them is to ask these questions: Who? What? Why? How? and How long?
Who are the students? The choice of article depends on the level and interests of the students in addition to their age. It is usually better to use articles with students who are of intermediate level or above. The Guardian Weekly news articles are at three levels: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced, but the elementary level is not really suited to beginners, being more geared towards a pre-intermediate level. Difficult articles can be edited to remove material which is too complex for the level – either delete parts wholesale or rewrite the information using simpler vocab/grammar.
What? Articles can be taken from various sources. Newspapers, manuals, business magazines, newsletters, etc. (Below are some suggested links for finding articles.)
Why? In addition to the general interest in the topic, newspaper articles often contain useful language content. They are a rich source of vocabulary, can contain some good grammar examples and/or interesting syntax and sentence styles which can be exploited to aid learning.
How? A lesson should contain several elements. A warmer, tasks and activities to improve comprehension, grammar, reading and writing, and listening and speaking skills.
Real articles can be exploited to include these elements. A warmer is used to engage interest and introduce the subject of the article. This could be in the form of general questions about the topic, a picture, a video clip, etc.
A pre-reading task, such as a vocab/definition matching exercise, introduces new vocabulary which will help the student understand the article better. After reading, the different language content can be revised in split sentences, matching exercises, gap fills and comprehension questions. For example, a gap-fill exercise to practice prepositions. Another idea is to draw attention to chunks of language in a split sentence activity.
Some articles have a podcast for listening comprehension activities. Students can be given a writing task such as writing a letter, a comment, a diary entry and so on.
Finally, a speaking activity could involve a role-play, a discussion or debate.
As for “how long?,” this depends on the length of the lesson. Most of the participants in the workshop teach lessons of 90 minutes and a few teach 60-minute lessons. This is an important factor when choosing the length of an article. Longer articles can be shortened by removing less central paragraphs, or by shortening each paragraph.
For the second part of the workshop, the participants were divided into two groups and each group was given an article to work on. Each group was then subdivided to work on turning the news articles into a lesson by creating a warmer, comprehension activity, language/grammar exercises, discussion questions and webtask, writing and/or speaking.
The different teams then met up to discuss their ideas. This was quite a noisy, energetic activity with lots of input and suggestions.
We left the workshop with a lot of ideas, inspiration and several ready-made articles under our arms.
Randa Abu Jamous
Karen mentioned a couple of tools which can be helpful in creating worksheets from articles:
This tool does the work for you. Simply paste the article of not more than 400 words and you get a variety of language worksheets which you can edit and print.
This is an image viewer which allows you to capture and annotate anything on the screen.
Sources for news articles:
BBC learning English: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/
Guardian classroom materials: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/series/classroom-materials
Daily mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html
The local.de German news in English http://www.thelocal.de
Deutsche Welle: German news in English http://www.dw-world.de
Spiegelonline.de: German news in English http://www.spiegel.de/international/
Breaking news English: http://www.Breakingnewsenglish.com
English newspaper cartoons and video clips http://www.jeffreyhill.typepad.com/english/
English news articles from around the world http://www.english-online.at/news-articles/world/world-index.htm
UK newspapers http://dailynewspaper.co.uk/
Front pages UK newspapers http://www.frontpagestoday.co.uk/
Voice of America news for the classroom: http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/theclassroom/home/
Who is afraid of the big G? Teaching grammar to adults
Speaker: Markus Koch
17th March 2012
Alte Feuerwache, Cologne
Susan Holm shares her thoughts
"Great fun!" and "It's always a pleasure" were some of the comments that echoed through the room immediately following Marcus Koch's seminar on grammar. The seminar was all about grammar but he carefully avoids expressing the word (along with "game" and "role play"), choosing instead to talk about an "aspect", "activity", "technique" or "scenario".
After a brief introduction, he literally moved us through two warm-up activities: revolving discussion groups on controversial questions regarding grammar and a cross-cultural communication activity that had the group baffled until the mystery was revealed, with the result that our curiosity was sufficiently piqued and provoked in preparation for the rest of the seminar. The remaining two hours were a non-stop, fast-paced demonstration of 16 activities with the participants as "students" and learning at least six aspects of English, from the Present Simple to the Past Perfect.
I had low expectations going into the seminar, vaguely dreading a long discourse on rules and applications. I say vaguely because I had been out late the night before and was a bit foggy-brained with the concern that I might actually nod off as the afternoon wore on. No chance of that – thankfully. The seminar could only be described as physically active and very practical. A few concerns were brought to our attention by the participants. These included the differences in American vs. British English, to which Marcus graciously replied that this was inevitable and simply needed to be acknowledged. Another stated concern was how eagerly our serious German clients would participate in these activities, to which Marcus assured us that he has had much positive experience in training at the manager and executive level using these techniques.
Another apt description of the seminar would be "extremely visual" – something you might not automatically associate with the teaching of grammar. To attempt a written description of the various activities and their effect would take reams of paper. If a picture paints a thousand words then these activities might replace hours of dull teaching and exercises. Suffice it to say, you had to have been there. You won't want to miss it the next time.
By Susan Holm
And a word from the chef
On Saturday, March 17, I was invited to present to the members of ELTA Rhine, an event I had already enjoyed some years ago, when I talked about “vocab learning strategies”.
Back to back with this year’s AGM, I had to face the challenge of presenting some kind of “edutainment” to ELTA Rhine members, trying hard to make them forget about the warm sunshine and lovely spring weather outside.
Some general thoughts:
Grammar is central to the teaching and learning of languages. It is also one of the more difficult aspects of language to teach well and, therefore, plays a central role in every ESL / EFL teacher's classroom. The important question that needs to be answered is: how do I teach grammar? In other words, how do I help students learn the grammar they need. This question is deceptively easy. At first look, you might think that teaching grammar is just a matter of explaining grammar rules to students. However, teaching grammar effectively is a much more complicated matter.
This workshop suggested some ways in which students may be induced to talk, using the language creatively, purposefully, and individually – at various levels of the language acquisition process.
What do “grammar”, “games” and “role-play” have in common?
Well, as a trainer I have learned not to use these words in class, as they usually trigger some rather negative memories with students. As for grammar, it is said to be boring, rule-related, full of Latin-based words and fairly incomprehensible (at least to some). Yet students tend to ask for structure and may well call grammar one of the prerequisites of successful language learning.
And this very discrepancy is what we trainers need to deal with in class.
Thus, the workshop presented a range of flexible grammar-related materials and activities designed to meet the needs of today’s learners of English. The aspect of “defocusing” was introduced through the hilarious “culture game” … remember Adam and Eve, or the Eskimos, or other slightly weird observations, when the answer simply lay in friendly faces.
And don’t forget Mary, who went into a shop to buy some shoes, only to be killed the same evening … again a focus on grammar, although for students solving the riddle was the much more interesting aspect … correct grammar was somehow produced as we went along.
And last but not least the “You are wearing”-activity … when all of a sudden the aspect of pressure changed the atmosphere completely, leading students to produce fast and creative sentences.
All in all, the workshop took a learner-centered and highly practical approach in order to cater to the different types of learners, in particular, the kinesthetic learner who is sometimes not taken care of enough in our classes – even among adults.
ELTA Rhine, thanks for inviting me to talk about grammar … at least we teachers had a whale of a time with plenty of laughter filling the room throughout the afternoon (and I am sure we will be able to “infect” our learners with this “grammar-virus”).
ELTA Rhine e.V. AGM
24th February 2018 from 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Melchiorstraße 3 50670 Cologne
Coffee and refreshments
The English Language Show with John Hudson
24th February 2018 from 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Melchiorstraße 3 50670 Cologne
An Improvisation workshop involves learning the arts, of listening, unblocking one’s mind, accepting others’ ideas, transformational energy and positive presence. The workshops are fun, funny, easy to pick up and always inspiring. The energy is fully creative and the lessons learnt are instantly applicable to one’s life. Language is more than just words. It’s about transporting ideas. In this workshop you will look at unlocking and expressing your creativity: to explore expression using sight, sound, body and mind; to learn to co-operate in creative situations by reinforcing each other and building action through mutually beneficial structures; and to learn how these structures, when used, help to create an agile mindset and improve an ability to operate in chaos. The workshop is about doing, using theory to help action in performance and ideas to flourish. This workshop is also about having fun with learning!
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John Hudson is a native New Zealander who has managed 41 years in the business of culture. Beginning professionally as an actor in Dunedin in 1976, he has gone on to acting, directing and producing many theatrical events, both in New Zealand and abroad. He has performed leading roles at the Edinburgh Festival, toured the world as a comedian and fashioned a career as a stage director in the German TV business coaching and advising on Improvisation. Recently Diesterweg published a school book by John using improvisation games to learn a language. He currently teaches teachers to use the techniques as well as performing The show, The English Language Show, a 90 minute solo Improv show for schools. This show incorporates the ideas from the book and involves up to 20 volunteers on stage speaking and acting in English. He also produces and hosts Dub-TV, A stylish mix of old film synchronisation and music, and The Improv Comedy Show.
Page updated: 14.01.2018
Meeting of the Literature Group
Sunday 22nd April 4.00 p.m.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.
Hosted by Graham Sutherland, Stammheimer Ring 70, 51061 Köln-Stammheim. Tel. 0221 / 666359, email@example.com
The next meeting of the Literature Group will be at 4.00 p.m. on Sunday 22nd April to discuss The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.
Our host on this occasion will be Graham Sutherland, Stammheimer Ring 70, 61061 Köln-Stammheim, Tel. 0221 / 666359. New members and guests are always welcome but please contact the host in advance to let them know you’re coming.
Where else can you ...
land yourself a leading part in ”The SOPRANOs”?
do something with fellow members of ELTA-Rhine which is ALTOgether different from the daily chalkface?
easily follow the TENOR of lyrics in many different languages?
kid yourself for a moment you’re the next Luigi Pavarotti or Shirley BASSey?
Stumped for an answer? Absolutely. So now for details of the next choir rehearsal on ...
Sunday, 13th May at 6 p.m.
Sunday, 3rd June at 6 p.m.
Sunday, 1st July at 6 p.m.
... please contact: Davine Sutherland, 02203 / 3266, firstname.lastname@example.org
We're all m-learners now We’re all m-learners now
By Graham Sutherland
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m writing this on a train as it gently rocks and sways its way through the Scottish highlands. The smooth green-carpeted hillsides are still swathed in mist but there’s a brightness in the sky that hints at a sun trying to peek through. It’s all a welcome contrast to the artificially lit auditoriums I’ve been sitting in for most of the past week learning about digital technology. Because that was certainly the focus of this year’s IATEFL conference in Glasgow. Five years ago, on the other side of Scotland in Aberdeen, the buzz word had been ‘blended learning’, with techy teachers and pioneering publishers trying to persuade a sceptical audience to leaven their textbook lessons with activities from CD-ROMs and early online offerings. Now, though the B-word occasionally cropped up in presentation titles, we had already gone through e-learning and were well on our way to becoming masters of m-learning, ELT on the move.
Each day of the four-day conference begins with a ‘plenary’, a keynote speech delivered to all delegates. One of these was by Diana Laurillard, whose CV includes work for the ministry of education, the open university, Harvard and UNESCO
She reminded us that mankind had been more fundamentally changed by the tools it had invented than by any philosophy and suggested that the new digital technologies would prove to have the most revolutionary influence on our thinking since the discovery of writing. While governments had seen the great opportunities offered by the internet in education, they were criticised for throwing money at the problem instead of thinking it through, and especially for not asking teachers themselves how teaching methods might be adapted to take advantage of Web 2.0. She encouraged teachers not only to note the new materials offered by the interactive internet, which can relieve us of a lot of the routine teaching work, but also to develop new classroom techniques and contribute these new ‘patterns’ of teaching to a repository she is helping to develop at https://sites.google.com/a/lkl.ac.uk/ldse/Home
Another keynote speaker, Steven L. Thorne, professor in the US and the Netherlands and self-confessed World of Warfare warrior, extolled the virtues of virtual worlds as language learning environments http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2012/sessions/2012-03-22/plenary-session-steven-l-thorne
While not ignoring those voices critical of online gaming he pointed out the recommendation of Harvard Business Review that companies looking for CEOs should hire ‘guildmasters’ from collaborative wargames, who were of necessity decisive, quick-thinking leaders and deployers of human capital. Taking an ELT perspective, Thorne pointed out the large volume of English texts which gamers encounter at three levels: the online instructions for the game itself; the many “meta-websites” developed by fellow-gamers offering assistance and advice to players, e.g. http://www.elitistjerks.com; and a vast amount of online fiction authored by aficionados and based on the characters and landscapes of the various games. Academic analysis of the language used in these contexts has shown it to be rich at both ends of the register, with many examples of very simple, but even more of quite complex vocabulary and syntax. (By contrast, the real-time conversation between players as they play, whether by voice or text, seems to have its own code, which is only vaguely related to English as we know it.) Thorne entitled his talk ‘Awareness, appropriacy and living language use’ and this summarises how he sees the role of the teacher, who is to encourage the gamers among her students to be aware of the language they encounter and consider its appropriacy for use in other contexts. The games themselves provide a wealth of material – dramatis personae to characterise, narratives to relate, landscapes to describe - which can be brought into the classroom. Here the teacher can serve as a mediator, introducing related activities.
Many shorter presentations to smaller audiences tackled separate aspects of e- and m-learning. There was the Croatian teacher who used Facebook with her teenage classes because her students were already familiar with it, whilst they couldn’t be persuaded to access the elaborate – and expensive - VLE (virtual learning environment) the school had set up using Moodle. The class set up their own fictitious Facebook account, administered by the most trustworthy of their number, and this proved useful for staying in touch with absent students, reminding the class of homework, developing a feeling of togetherness, providing a platform for the shy, and incorporating various other software material.
There was the Brazilian teacher who used QR codes (e.g. http://www.qr-code-generator.com), those speckled boxes you see on posters which can be photographed and read by many mobile phones, to create intriguing prompts for classroom activities.
An American teaching in Japan who used VoiceThread http://voicethread.com as a tool for self- and peer-assessment in speaking activities.
A Turkish teacher who used Prezi (http://prezi.com), presentation software with an amazing vertiginous zoom function, to implant definitions, pictorial illustrations and explanatory videos around new vocabulary items for classroom reading activities.
A teacher from London who encouraged students to augment their textbook by uploading alternative illustrations, additional exercises, personalised details to a virtual learning environment, using all of the following: My Places on Google maps (to personalise maps), http://www.surveymonkey.com for students to conduct their own surveys, http://www.wordle.net (to create word clouds, e.g. for synonyms and antonyms), http://www.podbean.com (to produce podcasts), http://www.audioboo.fm (for recording and sharing sound on mobile devices and the web), http://www.flickr.com (to produce a slide show as a prompt for process description), http://www.timetoast.com (for a time line) and http://www.wix.com (to create a simple website).
And, as two Turkish teacher trainers convincingly demonstrated (http://iatefl2012isilbeyza.blogspot.de), if you’re going to use all this technology, you’ll need, as a teacher, the support of your own PLN (personal learning network), so that you can tweet your colleagues or call on helpful bloggers when things go wrong.
What other trends were apparent at IATEFL in Glasgow? Well, one acronym on many lips was CLIL, standing for content and language integrated learning. Known in Germany as bilingualer Unterricht, it involves school subjects being taught in a foreign language so that two birds are killed with one stone. That’s the theory at least, but the reverberations of a sceptical talk given at last year’s conference by Anthony Bruton, who works in Spain, could still be felt in some of this year’s more heated debates. References to CLIL by teaching training author and guru Jeremy Harmer suggest that it is seen as similar to the methodology of SLA, second language acquisition, which insists that learning comes from doing rather than conscious language work and at its most extreme eschews any form of grammar teaching.
Personal coaching as an aspect of language learning has been a round for a long time under the aegis of NLP, neurolinguistic programming. However, while NLP was completely off the radar in Glasgow, the connection between coaching and language teaching seems to be emerging as a hot tip in its own right. At the talks I attended the main focus was on motivation, with learners being encouraged to imagine their ideal identity as a speaker of the foreign language to be learnt, give it a reality check, negotiate the obstacles and work with the teacher/coach to set and achieve incremental subgoals.
Oh, and by the way, it’s all right only to teach intonation for word stress and sentence chunking – all else is too complex for you as a teacher, let alone your students, to understand (http://www.llas.ac.uk/materialsbank/mb081/page_01.htm). And it really is useful to know what kinds of prepositions there are (http://www.sethlindstromberg.info)!
Well, the train is slowing, the air has become salty, the gulls are squawking as they circle the fishing boats, and – lo and behold! – the waters of Oban Bay are all a-sparkle in the radiant Scottish sunshine. So it’s goodbye to ELT, URLs and VLEs for a while. See you back in Cologne!
BOOKS OFFERED FOR REVIEW
The following titles are currently available for review. We’ve got some new titles: Global Workbook - Elementary from Hueber, and from Cornelsen two readers Loose Talk and Jailbird (both B1-B2), as well as Vocabulary - Englisch nach Themen.
Don’t forget we’ve also got new copies of Language Leader Intermediate, both the Student’s Book and the Workbook.
If you decide to review a book, we provide criteria to help you with writing your review and the book is yours to keep after reviewing. This is a great opportunity to keep up-to-date with all the teaching materials out there and will benefit those who are always looking for new books to try out in our classes.
Your feedback also helps other teachers to choose new books for their courses or schools. So please do not hesitate to contact me (email@example.com) with your name, address and the desired title and I will gladly post it to you.
English Unlimited A2
Course book for adult learners with e-Portfolio DVD-ROM + 3 Audio CDs
Published by Cambridge University Press, available through Klett
By Pat Schmitz
English Unlimited A2 has 14 units dealing with a wide spectrum of topics typical for most general English course books for adults such as talking about the family, life at the workplace, health and journeys. English Unlimited, available in A1-C1, is adapted for the German-speaking market, having at the back of the book vocabulary lists, grammar explanations etc. in German.
As shown on the contents page at the beginning of the book each unit is divided into various sections:
Goals, being the subject of the unit
Language, which includes grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation
Skills, a mixture of reading, writing, listening and speaking
Explore at the end of each unit which consolidates the topics learned with extra exercises.
After the 14 units there are also activities for every unit as extra practice, which I think is good for students keen on homework, for example.
Because of the great variety of topics in the book, English Unlimited offers the students a wide range of general knowledge vocabulary and grammar structures, enabling the successful learner to communicate with English speakers on real life topics rather than being restricted to tourist English.
The DVD is interesting, with an 'e portfolio' suitable for students who prefer computerized learning aids. For example, there are electronic word cards for each unit. They come up on the screen in a table with three columns. Two are labelled I know this and I don’t know this. In the middle are the cards with a word which the user drags into one of the columns. To check the meaning of the word you click the top right of the card and a description of the word in English appears: a quirky alternative for learning vocabulary.
By: Birgit Abegg, Paula White Maier
18.5cm x 23.7cm, 263 pages
By Rory Braddell
The title Crossroads is explained in the forward to the book: “If taken literally, a crossroads is a place where two roads come together. Also in international trade and so business people from different cultures meet.” There are several reasons why this image is quite relevant for this course. On the surface, Crossroads is rather similar to an older Hueber Verlag book, Communication for Business, which was primarily aimed at office clerks working in import and export. Similarly, Crossroads focuses on the important skills for foreign trade, such as shipping, payment and dealing with complaints etc. However, it adds something new and is a lot more modern in its conception, also dealing with more complex inter-cultural issues.
As the forward to the book points out, Internet, SMS, e-mail, and e-commerce have led to a form of communication in which there is a lot less emphasis on formal expression. Even so, the formal business letter remains an important tool that is inseparable from some business areas and is a necessary skill which is still a central part to this course. For example, Crossroads presents examples of formal and informal communications side by side, so that the learner can compare the two directly. In addition, examples of the differences between American and British styles of writing are also provided. In my opinion, this helps the students get a much more balanced understanding of business communications, providing them the tools to choose the correct amount of formality.
Who should use the course? Crossroads is aimed at students who are preparing for the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) English exam, especially the additional English qualification for commercial trainees. The authors also recommend the book for general use at companies, institutions or in business schools. Crossroads is suitable for students at the CEF level B2, who already have a good grasp of English grammar.
The coursebook is made up of 12 units, each dealing with different aspects of business communications, such as getting in contact, making offers, placing orders, organising transport and so on. Each unit is further subdivided into sections: Warm up, Business correspondence, Business topics, Language practice, Listening and speaking skills, Writing practice, Exam preparation and Useful phrases. These sections deal with the main requirements of business English, such as the acquisition of specialised business terms and phrases, speaking and writing communication skills and also reading comprehension. However, what you won’t find is explicit grammar training, which is probably not a bad idea considering the thematic nature of the units. The strength of the coursebook is the inclusion of plenty of realistic examples of document types, which clearly stand out from the rest of the text. There are plenty of gap fills, and written tasks to keep the student busy, with a focus on learning new vocabulary in context.
The book is not exceptionally visually stimulating, but the sparse use of photos presents the eye with a bit of variety. As far as interaction goes, the vast majority of tasks are done by the student and corrected by the teacher, but there are a number of role plays which require student-to-student interaction. In my opinion, there could be a lot more speaking exercises in this course, especially along the lines of case studies and role plays, and what is also lacking are extra resource activities to extend the coursebook. Another point is that it is generally expected these days that only English should be used as the language of the classroom. Clearly the main drawback of Crossroads is the frequent use of German translation for vocabulary, phrases, and task descriptions. The book is very orientated towards Germany, making it less useful for international groups.
The coursebook pack includes two audio CDs; CD1 contains the audio files for the listening comprehension and CD2 a vocabulary trainer. In addition, an inexpensive teacher's guide comes with the answer key, explanations for teachers and useful background information. Unfortunately, the notes are written in German and it also reads like a solution to the exercises, rather than a comprehensive lesson plan with warm ups and extensions. I don’t find this approach very helpful, as a teacher’s book should be designed to adapt and enhance a course, rather than just be an answer key.
The Hueber website provides samples of the coursebook, audio, and teacher’s book. These are available at http://www.hueber.de/crossroads/
To sum up, Crossroads is a course which provides excellent examples of business communications and examples of contrasting communication styles. On the other hand, it targets the needs of a German audience and caters for teachers who can speak German and who are used to translating business terms.
Teacher Development Courses
I hope you all had a good start to 2012 and are raring to go.
Here is my new list of teacher development courses for the next few months …
Skylight offers a number of highly professional trainer-the-trainer courses in Cologne.
Transforming business processes into scenarios
Communicating internationally in English 1
NLP Business Diploma
4 – 6 May and 27 – 29 July
Communicating internationally in English 2
The Consultants-E offer a wide selection of online training and development courses for teachers of English:
Cert ICT: Certificate in Teaching Languages with Technology
23 March - 17 August 2012
Cert IBET: Certificate in International Business English Training / Cert ICT: Certificate in Teaching Languages with Technology
23 March – 8 June 2012
mlearning in Practice
03 May – 13 June 2012
E-Moderation: A Training Course For Online Tutors
01 May – 30 May2012
elc - European Language Competence is offering a four-day trainer-the-trainer course in Cologne entitled Intercultural Competence in English.
16 + 17 / 23 + 24 June 2012
LTS training and consulting are offering a five-day course in Bath entitled Teaching English for International Business
21 – 25 May 2012
International House is offering a Cambridge CELTA course in Frankfurt/Main:
4 June – 29 June 2012
International House offers CELTA and DELTA courses and online training. Take a look at their website for details.
Teacher Development Interactive offer online courses for ELT professionals.
I’d love to hear from you if you go on a training course. And do drop me a line if you feel I’ve missed anything.
PS Remember to look at Russell Stannard's ELT / ESL Training videos. They're all F.R.E.E. http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/
PPS And read his Webwatcher Column:
Publication Information and Details
Newsletter of the English Language Teachers'
Association - Rhine, e.V.
Vol. 30 No. 1, Autumn 2017
The ELTA-Rhine Newsletter is published electronically three times a year in March, July, and November. It is sent free of charge to our around 240 members and several further organisations and individuals who take an interest in our work.
We are always glad to receive contributions on any subject related to the aims and activities of the Association or of interest to its members, but the Committee reserves the right not to publish either articles or advertisements which it feels run counter to the best interests of the Association and its members. Under normal circumstances we can only accept contributions in electronic format. If in doubt, please email the Newsletter editor before sending. Help with administration and editorial assistance is always welcome.
We also welcome advertisements. All advertisements are, however, published at the Committee's discretion. The advertising rates for the web-based Newsletter range from €50 to €280, depending on size and placement within the Newsletter. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more detailed information.
Advertising copy should be sent in electronic format. Please contact the Newsletter editor before sending large graphic files.
The deadline for contributions for the next Newsletter (Winter 2017) is Sunday, 3 December 2017.
All payments for ELTA-Rhine should be made to the following account:
Account No. 402521502
ELTA-Rhine takes no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this newsletter, or for errors in either form or content. ELTA Rhine also takes no responsibility for any external links published in this newsletter.