ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

Month: October 2010

“Teaching Online”: Book Review

Teaching Online“, written by Nicky Hockly with Lindsay Clandfield, is part of the DELTA Teacher Development Series, which is published by DELTA Publishing.  When looking at the blurb at the back, the book is referred to as ‘a clear, accessible and reassuringly practical book’.  The book is split into three parts, appropriately named; Part A, Part B and (you’ve guessed it) Part C.

Part A introduces the reader to online teaching (also referred to blended learning), the opportunities available for teachers (as well as learners), current opinion of using technology to supplement traditional classes as well as an accompanied list of tools for teaching.  The book also recommends Course Site Tools and Activity Tools that could be used to assist in creating a dedicated space for an online course.  Particular areas of interest for Course Site Tools include;

  • VLE (Virtual Learning Environments)
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Wikis
  • Discussion Groups

The Activity Tools that suggested is organised to complement the Course Site Tools and it is best to illustrate this with a reference from the book.

“Teaching Online” (2010) by Hockly & Clandfield (pg. 21)

The book suggests websites for each of the Activity Tools (concordance sites, comic creator sites, etc).  The resources available from this book is so invaluable for teachers trying to create a web-presence for online classes.  Part A concludes with suggested Netiquette as well as best practice for teachers delivering online classes (meeting and greeting, establishing objectives, etc).

Part B shares ideas and lessons based upon a range of receptive and productive skills over five chapters; speaking and listening, reading and writing, etc.  All lessons shared in Part B (within the first chapter) encourage teachers to focus on communicative and engaging activities to get to know the students (The Starting Line).  There are 12 lessons, within the first chapter, that are shared and within this each lesson contains the technological tools required, the technique (or lesson plan), a suitable follow-up for face-to-face lessons and a comment about the above lesson suggestion.  The second chapter looks at Reading and Writing Online, using a variety of resources as suggested in Part A.  Within this chapter, there are 21 lessons shared and, as with the above suggestions, each lesson contains the tools required, the technique (or lesson plan), follow-up and comments.  The third chapter (Listening and Speaking Online) share a wealth of great links for listening material to assist with the speaking element of the lesson.  Within this chapter, as with the previous two, they follow the same format of lesson plan (tools, technique, etc) and there are 18 lessons.  The fourth chapter, known as Language and Evaluation Online, introduces the reader to engaging and collaborative tasks to assist with lessons which can have an online grammar or vocabulary focus and are followed by a choice of activities to assess or evaluate progress.  Within this chapter, there are 19 lessons shared in the book which, as you would expect, follow a similar format as suggested previously.  The final chapter in Part B looks at the ending of online courses, appropriately named The Finishing Line.  There are four suggested ideas within this chapter to assist with drawing a course to an end for both students and teachers.

Part C investigates suitable areas for teachers to develop professionally and personally with references to online tools.  It also introduces the concept of a Personal Learning Network (PLN).  The reader is provided with different areas of online profesional development; discussion groups, development courses, conferences, ePortfolios, etc.

This book is highly invaluable for any teacher or school that is considering offering an online element to complement a face-to-face course.  It is well written and the resources available for readers are incredibly beneficial for planned online lessons.  The authors have not lost sight that the human element is intergral for success with online teaching; “Good online teaching needs effective human mediation – and this is provided by the teacher, not by automatic ‘drag and drop’ activities” (Hockly and Clandfield, 2010).

Tighten your BELTE in 2010

The location of the BELTE 2010.

I was fortunate to attend the BELTE (Brighton English Language Teaching Event) 2010 on Saturday 22 October 2010; the event was (I was led to believe) only in it’s second year.  The BELTE really was great preparation for the IATEFL 2011, which will also be hosted in Brighton next year at the Brighton Conference.  The event was located at Bellerby’s College and it was tucked away next to the train station.  I met various other teachers who had trouble finding the college and we strolled around for quite a time and then bumped into other teachers looking for the location.  Fortunately, I had my iPhone and Google Maps to hand so we were able to locate the school and arrive in time for the opening of the event.

After signing in for the event, I received a goody-bag full of marketing material and a stick of Sussex DoSA (Brighton) Rock.  The Sussex DoSA is a great association organised by various Director of Studies on the South East coast which arrange CPD courses for EFL Teachers, Managers and stakeholders.  Although they work at competing private language schools, they share experiences, provide opportunities for teachers to develop and meet on a regular basis.  Nonetheless, I met various students on the MA ELT course from the University of Sussex, some members from the Sussex DoSA Group that I knew and was also pleased to see so many familiar faces from LTC Eastbourne.  From entering the premises of Study Group, I went into the main hall and saw many many publishers, book sellers and various businesses.  For a few minutes, I was quite shocked how popular this event was.  The Mayor and Mayoress of Brighton even arrived to provide a speech and declare the event officially open.

Mayor of Brighton beside the manager of Study Group.

After the various speeches, the event was officially open and I decided to choose the workshops to attend and have a quick coffee.  I quickly chose Theresa Clementson (who is also on the MA ELT course) who has co-authored the English Unlimited series, published from Cambridge University Press, as well as Adrian Underhill, author of Sound Foundations from Macmillan Publishers.  The third workshop that I wished to attend was related to Culture in our Classroom organised Gill Johnson.  The first two workshops that I attended were really very good and contributed to my current teaching methodology.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the third workshop but, from what I hear, it was very very good.  Further information about the speakers and guests of the BELTE 2010 are available to view here.

Theresa Clementson
This talk provides practical ideas for ensuring we teach ‘real’ English by basing lessons around transferable communicative goals and language drawn from authentic sources. You will be given a solid framework of lessons that enable learners to achieve real-life communicative outcomes in class. Theresa has been involved in ELT for over 20 years, teaching and developing materials in Spain and the UK. She is a team-member of authors on English Unlimited, a new general course book [CUP, 2010]

Adrian Underhill
There need be no mystery or fear in teaching pronunciation, but rather success and fun! Experience an approach that enables learners to discover the muscles that actually make the pronunciation difference. This approach eliminates time taken on habit formation and repetition and liberates the body to work with the ear. Integrates sounds, words and connected speech into all aspects of language work, and offers multiple benefits to speaking, listening and reading. See if you agree!   Adrian is a freelance ELT consultant and trainer, working mainly on staff and organisational development. He is Series editor of Macmillan Books for Teachers, author of Sound Foundations, advisor to Macmillan English Dictionaries and past President of IATEFL. Current interests include applications of complexity theory and systematic thinking to learning, and improvisation in teaching.

Adrian Underhill and his happiest moment with a phonemic chart.

As detailed above, the two speakers were very good and the aim for each workshop was maintained.  It was quite interesting to be in a room of an author who had written various books.  Adrian Underhill demonstrated various pronunciation activities to assist in raising students’ awareness of phonetics in the classroom.

The fellow ELT Professionals that use Twitter.

The event would not have been anything had it not been for the fact that I was able to meet some fellow twitterers (or are they called twitters or twitts?).  I was able to meet some fellow like-minded people that I follow at the BELTE this year.  These included; @harrisonmike, @pysproblem81, @CallieWallie1, @Amandalanguage & @BCseminars.  I believe @CallieWallie1 and @Amandalanguage both travelled four hours to get to the event in Brighton and really commend them on their effort to get there.

I was able to get my hands on a new book and met up with BEBC (as they had a book stall there).  The book that I bought (and shall be reviewing on my blog in due course) is “Online Teaching” by Nicky Hockly with Lindsay Clandfield.  I met up with John Walsh (the MD) and the lovely assistant.  Fortunately, BEBC were offering a 20% discount on all the book titles and was keen to get a decent book; hence the prompt buy.  BEBC are also on Twitter, known as @Books4English.

Overall, it was great meeting other people and it really opened my eyes to the ELT Community in the South East.  It would be great to meet everyone at the upcoming IATEFL in 2011.  I shall finish this blog post off with a photo of those aforementioned twitterers/twitters/twitts on the steps of the infamous BELTE Building.

Stress in the Classroom


For all teachers, stress can play an important role in the classroom.  It can raises students’ awareness, improves confidence for learners as well as develops appropriate receptive skills.  By now, you probably have assumed that I am not really suggesting about the stress levels of a particular teacher or student but I am focusing on the stress, intonation and rhythm of language.  I was lucky enough to lead a seminar discussion on this particular topic and have uploaded my presentation to scribd.  The aim of my particular seminar discussion was; How important is it to teach intonation, rhythm and stress? (What problems do learners typically encounter?)  The presentation is available to view below:

Language Description & Analysis – Week 3 Seminar Discussion

Initially, I focused on intonation in the classroom and during my reading and research I found that intonation ‘is about how we say things, rather than what we say’ (TeachingEnglish).  Thornbury suggested that intonation is ‘the music of speech’ (2006) and, with a teaching perspective, an ‘attempt to explain intonation is likely to fall on deaf ears’ (Thornbury, 2006).  Perhaps a ‘rule of thumb’ approach is more appropriate for raising awareness with intonation in the classroom.  Nonetheless, a thought a about a fun and awareness-raising intonation activity could include the following:

Say it with Feeling

  1. Write up the following sentences on the board;
    • It’s raining!
    • I can’t believe it!
    • What are you doing?
  2. Then on the other side, write some adjectives related to feelings (happy, angry, bored, shocked, etc).
  3. Call a student to the front of the class and ask them to secretly choose one sentence and one feeling, the other students have to guess which feeling the student chose.
  4. Repeat this process once students have understood the process of intonation to express happiness, anger, shock, etc.

 We are all aware that as educators, we could highlight the intonation in sentences/questions but my only objection to this could be that is students’ could acquire intonation through exposure rather than being too prescriptive in teaching and aiming to conform students to more acceptable communication.  This would encourage students to become more autonomous learners and aware of not only what is mentioned, but how it is also mentioned.

The next part of my seminar discussion led on to rhythm and the suitability within the classroom to teach it.  There was not much reading material related to rhythm and so I had to resort to Twitter and TeachingEnglish.  I found it correlated with sentence stress, connective speech and intonation.  So much so I tried to relate the rhythmic language of Tongue Twisters to this part of the discussion.  I introduced the class to a famous tongue twister with the use of wordle:

The tongue twister is; “If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?”  Quite a mouthful really.  Anyhow, my belief is that the natural rhythm of tongue twisters could be implemented to assist with rhythm-based language awareness.  Furthermore, students would become more confident speakers if they are able to sound quite fluent when communicating and maintaining their communicative rhythm.  Other activities that could facilitate the use of rhythm could be the use of getting students to sing in sentences, but having not had much experience of teaching stress I would be appreciated of further comment from other educators on how to teach rhythm.

Finally, we looked at the element of stress in the classroom.  There was some debate about Scrivener’s comment that ‘vowel sounds are typically weak and unstressed’ (Learning Teaching, 2005) as all students had arrived from a lecture where we were introduced to allophones.  For those of you that are interested, allophones is a particular phoneme pronounced in a different way; a Scottish may say the word “bath” differently to someone from London.  It is these different ways of saying the same phoneme when they are referred to allophones.  Nonetheless, it is widely recognised that incorrect usage of word stress is a common cause of misunderstanding in English (please refer to page 7 in my presentation for an example).  We also looked at some popular methods of raising awareness of stress; these included marking and highlighting stress (page 7), showing the differences in meaining for particular words that are stressed (page 8) as well as arranging stress patterns (page 9).  Now if you can spot the error on page 8, well done; I created the presentation over the course of the weekend and my only excuse is that my eyes were tired and I didn’t pick up the error until it was displayed from the OHP for all fellow students to see.  Anyhow, the main emphasis was there to generate discussion among fellow students.

I ended the discussion on further ideas; such as including the paralinguistic nature of language during an task-based activity (such as booking an appointment on the phone), so students could be introduced to word and sentence stress when looking at new vocabulary, reviewing the intonation and rhythm which could be prompted by student generated sentences.  The first presentation was useful on a personal level as I had to research a topic often overlooked by many EFL Teachers.  I hoped that the class led the presentation (rather than the other way round) and most fellow students participated in the discussions.  Some of the debatable statements that were included did help get students involved.  I am really keen to develop my own teaching including the topic that I presented.  I am quick to mention that I have often had a relaxed opinion of fluency and pronunciation, hoping that students would be able to acquire receptively.  However, the debate for next time is whether we should focus on Received Pronunciation or World English.

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