Success and leadership seminar

Written by: Ed Pope, US Peace Corps, Community Economic Development, Romania
Co-Author: Desdemona Nagy, English Teacher, Vasile Goldis University/Arad Practicum for Mastering Spoken English
The development of this Practicum for mastering Spoken English was a joint venture with Peace Corps/ Romania, Vasile Goldis University/Arad, CHF – Cooperative Housing Foundation/Arad, CARA – CASA de AJUTOR RECIPROC a ASOCIAŢIILOR/Arad, Romania, Modular Construction S.R.L./Arad, and Club-52 Toastmasters International, Phoenix, Arizona, United States of America. Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational institution whose mission is to make effective oral communication a worldwide reality.

SUCCESS AND LEADERSHIP SEMINAR was developed from the well-established oral communication educational program of Toastmasters International. In the United States and around the world, this oral communication educational program has several variations:

  • Toastmasters Club: Regular two hour weekly meetings of professionals interested in mastering the art of effective oral communications and gaining professional confidence and decorum.
  • Speechcraft: Ten week educational program conducted by Toastmasters Clubs to meet the short-term needs of professionals interested in mastering the art of effective oral communications and gaining professional confidence and decorum.
  • Youth Leadership: Ten week educational program conducted by Toastmasters Clubs to meet the short-term needs of students of all ages interested in mastering the art of effective oral communications and gaining self-confidence.
  • Special Success & Leadership Educational Programs: Toastmasters Clubs create and sponsor an endless variety of educational program for business and professional organizations to meet their specific oral communications needs.

The author, Ed Pope who is currently on Sabbatical as a Senior Management Consultant with the United States Peace Corps, has been an active member of Toastmasters International and has achieved their highest professional and oral communications Award, the Distinguished Toastmaster. Drawing upon his 35 years of engineering and management experience, years as a public speaker, education, and teaching in a broad range of disciplines, the author collaborated with Desdemona Nagy of Vasile Goldis University to design and develop this Practicum for Mastering Spoken English, SUCCESS AND LEADERSHIP SEMINAR. This seminar was specifically designed to offer students, teachers, and professionals a Practicum for Mastering Spoken English.
Seminar Methodology follows the Toastmaster Club seminar format methodology designed to support the Toastmaster’s Club Mission:
“The mission of a Toastmasters Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.”
Inherent to all American institutions and especially educational programs like Toastmasters, is a methodology and format created to promote a democratic learning experience. This learning experience is applicable not only to students, but to teachers and other business and professional as well. For the University curriculum, SUCCESS AND LEADERSHIP SEMINAR is intended to be a fixable a ten-week two-hour module experiential learning module, either to be used as part of the normal curriculum or as an optional addition. Being tailored specifically for this region, the democratic process and experience is supported with a brief introduction to basic parliamentary procedures following Robert’s Rules of Order: Motions, Nominations, Voting and Election of Officers. The seminar participants elect officers and form a Success & Leadership Club. The Club Officers then conduct the weekly Seminar (class). All seminar activities are conducted exclusively in spoken English.
Learning Environment features the physical layout of a professional seminar. It is this face-to-face oral communication experience that is essential for mastering spoken English. Effective spoken English communication requires not only mastering the spoken word, but being able to reflect and incorporate the listener’s responses as well. Students are responsible for arranging and rearranging classroom for each Seminar session. Student Officers & students coordinate all set-up, handout issues, conduct Seminar.
This practicum, like it’s American counter-part, is designed to inspire a whole new generation of leaders through mastering the art of effective communication with spoken English. To quote Les Brown, author of Live Your Dreams, “If you want your dreams to come true, you must have confidence in your-self and your abilities.” The long-term goal of this practicum is to create a new generation of young leaders for business, industry, civic, government, and education who have a positive life view and share an exciting vision for the future of their Communities. The ultimate rewards will be to “Build a New Community, one Leader at a Time”, to inspire hope and confidence by sharing a positive experience of life, and to renew the belief that “Hope Exist Because we have Seen the Future”.

Role of The Teacher may be the most challenging of all. The Toastmaster methodology is based on the proven belief that people learn best by doing. Beyond understanding and remembering the basic linguistic tools of English, mastering the spoken word can only come from personally speaking. It is the role of the teacher to become the mentor, facilitator and coach for each participant and the learning environment itself. The learning environment is the catalysis that embodies Pygmalion and Demosthene’s effects that produce the catharsis and transform the novice into the master. Positive reinforcement, group acceptance, pear feedback and recognizing and rewarding excellence set the stage for personal challenge and growth. The students do the work while the teacher points the way. This practicum builds on already established Basic English Language fluency. These basic language skills are enhanced with a positive democratic experience, new communication skills and an optimistic perspective and courage for change.

Student’s Participation: This Practicum can be part of the normal English Language Course. Each student is given an opportunity to speak at every class meeting. A Communication and Leadership Manual guides the students through ten basic Mastering Spoken English skill experiences. A formal Art of Effective Evaluation text guides the students through giving both written as well as oral peer feedback. It is this peer feedback, which encourages students to raise their level of expectations. A positive and supportive peer environment is encouraged. The positive influence of the Pygmalion’s Effect for growth and learning is evident, because it is part of the methodological magic of this Practicum for Mastering Spoken English.
Student’s Speak for Themselves: At the final class, students were asked to complete a seminar evaluation feedback form. This is what they had to say:

“I liked the fact that everything was introduced before it was applied.”
“I learned to speak openly in front of the class without fear.”
“I learned to organize my ideas.”
“I liked very much that we grew together as a family.”
“I liked that we could see each other and the person in front of the class.”
“I gained more confidence in my speaking skills.”
“I was afraid to speak in English, now I’m more confident.”
“It helped me boost my self-esteem.”
“It helped me be more confident speaking English in front of others”.
“I gained more confidence in myself and to express better my ideas an dinner thoughts.”
“I’m more confident then I was with the language (English).”
“It helped to open myself more then I did before. To listen to other’s opinions, ideas, experiences and share my life with the class.”
“I improved my way of speaking English.”
“I learned to improve my English and be more confident in myself.”
“It helps people be more confident in their own abilities.”
“It gave me more reasons to teach English.”
“As young people we were used to let somebody else talk for us. But here like this class people will learn to speak for themselves.”
“Yes, it helped me be more confident about my future.”

This Practicum for Mastering Spoken English can be that special lift that brings both challenge and creative learning to every classroom. Yesterday is was just one more undiscovered American success story. Today it is now a living tool available for every searching and dedicated English language teacher. Enjoy it; it will be a very rewarding and worthwhile experience for you and your students.

Teaching English to Police Cadets

Written by: Camelia Budisteanu, Lecturer of English,
‘Alex. Ioan Cuza’, Police Academy
I am an actress.
My stage is my classroom.
Can I really act?
Should I really act?
Teaching cadets of a Police School is like teaching any other adults if you can consider young people between 18 and 25 adults. That particular age means: impatience, eagerness, anxiousness, sometimes concern for the family and friends they left at home, fear, incertitude, lability. But also (good news!): adaptability.
Teaching the students of the Police Academy is no easy task. At first sight it may seem easier than teaching ordinary pupils, because they are always there, being comprised within a military framework. Yes, that’s true; you have the discipline – meaning that all of them are physically present. But are they mentally present too? Well, that’s the very problem.
All of my students – boys and girls alike face special problems among which there are:

  • spatial – the distance from their native places. The students of the Police Academy come from all over the country.
  • social – they come from all walks of life. And from all kinds of families. Some of their families are rich, others average, others poor.
  • motivation – most of the students who come to police Academy are motivated by the fact that the Academy offer them double majors: lawyers and police officers. Sad as it is we must admit that the majority of our students come for their future possibility of becoming lawyers. They dream about leaving the Police Force and becoming renowned prosecutors, judges and the like. The other category is that of young men, and women, who dream about being a policeman – American fashion: fast cars, intelligent weapons etc.

The students of our Academy – except from those at the Engineering Faculty (the Firefighters) – consider they are students of law – pure and simple. They just do forget their major as police officers. Hence the real problems. Like any other young people, they compare things. In Romania there is a multitude of Law Faculties – a state one, as well as many private ones. As soon as they have passed the entrance examination, their motivation for the future work of police diminishes tremendously. And in that case why should they study English? ‘Does a lawyer need English or any other foreign language?’ ‘No, he doesn’t’, they decide.
On the other hand, yes, of course, a policeman needs to know at least one foreign language – that’s an extra tool in one’s work. Unfortunately a very small percentage of the cadets are aware of this aspect.
Above all this, there are so many subjects to memorize for the exams in school, for all kinds of ‘laws’, so that when the English lesson comes – once a week only – ‘the poor guys’ are exhausted and seek relaxation.
The English course in the Academy is meant to maintain their knowledge acquired during high school. But is there any knowledge to maintain? The entrance examination comprises a test at English/French/German or Russian, which is not that easy. Then where goes that knowledge? That’s an interesting phenomenon worth mentioning. The fact is: there is no real, solid knowledge of English there, or there is but only a tiny-weeny amount of it, because the candidate has prepared for his/her entrance examination in a kind of ‘bulk’ style learning. Hence, off course nothing has been internalized. Add the new life they find in school plus the ‘stress’ of the military drilling and discipline and you’ll have the answer to their language incompetence.
Then … what is there to be done?
What I manage to do:
Apart from traditional manuals, grammar books etc.
For the 1st and 2nd years of the Faculty of Law – police, border police and gendarmes I bring them texts of more general interests never forgetting the grammar exercises.
For the 3rd and 4th years purposeful texts have to be prepared – some in original, some adapted. They contain cases and simulation of cases and again grammar – either in its plain, raw form or in contextualized examples. What I’ve found out is the fact that most of my students ask for strict grammar rules and exercises for one or another grammar issues. They seem to need to systematize to clarify grammar facts.
The Difficulties I’ve continuously encountered are real ones, but they are stimulants at the same time. One can never get bored in a class of police cadets. There’s always something new. A new case of robbery or drug smuggling or a nasty traffic accident.
Now, I’m not going to make a list of methods of arousing students’ interest and keeping their motivation alive. Yet I’ll mention a few things that were rewarding in terms of interest.
Books for example is one of them. I present a book I especially enjoyed or intrigued me and encourage students to read it. Of course only a rare category of young people still read nowadays. After reading it I always encourage that particular student to talk about it. So we exchange ideas and critics on the book.
Video films is another. Students love to watch films and they may make a solid basis of talk and improvement in terms of English. Short, original – not translated – versions are best. They may be introduced in a few words, then discussed. If they are shot enough they can be rewound and stopped at different moments.
This year I’ve also asked the students in the final year to translate individual papers along a certain period of time. I chose texts and papers of policing interest so that they could learn something from them.
With border police students I also use as a basis for discussion in class long covenants or agreements – broken into pieces. I asked them to read them carefully and present in class for an open discussion.
Lately I’ve begun to use Internet as a means of information and inspiration, together with the more classical means of teaching (newspapers, cassettes, video). I must admit I accessed and used it more on a personal, private basis – because of the lack of general access and no access in school, red tape and students’ inability (technical and equip-mental).I’ve found it most rewarding in terms of pieces of the latest news (which I use as warming ups) and lots of information about similar schools in the world.
Creating the possibility to listen to native speakers has been a constant concern, which we could accomplish when international visitors delivered lectures on subjects of interests or just visited the Academy.
Recently, thanks to Professor Mark Roberts from the British Council, some of the Police Academy students have had the opportunity to be taught by a native English speaker in person.
To conclude, I’d say Convincing is the KEY WORD for teaching police cadets: To convince them to study and being convincing as a teacher.

Two Techniques for Reading in ESP and Science Classes

Written by: Elka Goranova & Stefka Kitanova
Both techniques consist of three main stages which are the following:

  1. Arousing the interest
  2. Reading and follow-up activities
  3. Reflection

The texts used are extracts from “Biology! Bringing Science to Life”, J. H. Postlethwait et al., McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1991 (“Atoms and Molecules”) and “Atlas of Anatomy” introduced by T. Weston, MD, MRCGP, Marshal Cavendish, 1995 (“Cells and Chromosomes”, “Body Structure – Cavities”).
For Science classes the full original texts are used, whereas for the ESP classes they are appropriately adapted.

First technique

Step one. Arousing the interest:
Chemistry 8 th (ESP)/9 th grade (Science)
Topic. The Nature of Matter: Atoms and Elements
Imagine you are an atom. Describe yourself in a few sentences.
Biology 8 th (ESP)/ 9 th grade (Science)
Topic. Cells and Chromosomes
What are the similarities (and differences – for 9 th grade)  among a country, a house, a body and a cell?
Step two. Reading:
Read the text and fill in the table:

I know I learned I disagree I want to know

Follow-up activities: the students are divided into foursomes. Within the group they discuss the table. After that they are invited to share with the class their opinions on each section of the table.
Step three. Reflection:
The students write a poem of five lines. The first line consists of one word – a noun summarising the topic. The second line consists of two adjectives describing the topic. The third line consists of three words presenting the topic in action (-ing form of the verbs). The fourth line consists of four words expressing the author’s emotions about the topic. The fifth line is again of one word which is a synonym of the first one.

Second technique

Step one. Arousing the interest:
Chemistry 8 th (ESP)/9 th grade (Science)
Topic. Molecules: Atoms Linked with “Energy Glue”
You have four words from the text on the board. Write a few sentences trying to guess what the text is about.
8 th grade: groups, sharing, join, spend
9 th grade: push, glue, weak, salt
Biology 8 th (ESP)/9 th grade (Science)
Topic. Body Structure – Cavities
8 th grade: cage, sheet, stored, canal
9 th grade: jelly-like, chamber, squeeze, suck
Step two. Reading:
Each text has been cut into several parts beforehand by the teacher.
Read the text and fill in the table:

I think I know I want to know I learned
Part 1
Part 2
Part …
Final part

Follow-up activities: the students are split into groups and discuss the table. After the discussion a student from each group volunteers to present the group’s opinion in front of the class.
Step three. Reflection:
Finally the students compare their initial impressions of the topic based on the four words with their opinions after the reading and discussion. (You may rearrange the groups for this purpose).

The Ventriloquist

Written by: Peter Medgyes
[toc class=”toc-right”]
[The following is the verbatim copy of a plenary speech delivered in Budapest, Edinburgh, Mexico City, Caracas, Athens, Opatija and Plovdiv. During his talk, Peter Medgyes conducts a dialogue with a dummy.]

Motto: “I regard truth as a divine ventriloquist.”

Behind the mask

I don’t know how it is with you, but I love ELT coursebooks. I’m hooked on them. During the day, I always carry a sample in my briefcase. At night, coursebooks lie on my bedside table. Physically, they’re just beautiful. Slick and tender, a pleasure to touch. Spiritually, they give me a feeling of security; I trust them more than the best of my friends. And intellectually, well, they give me all the information about the world that needs to be known. Below the glittering surface, there’s depth.
There’s New Concept English, for example, by L.G. Alexander. It’s an oldie. Only the village elders remember it, because it was first published in the late 60s. Four levels in four colours. Orange, green, blue and yellow. Drill by drill. Story after story. If I say: “The Double Life of Alfred Bloggs”, does it ring a bell?… Nothing? Well, Alfred Bloggs worked as a dustman for the Ellesmere Corporation. Here’s an extract from the story:

“When he got married, Alf was too embarrassed to say anything to his wife about his job. He simply told her that he worked for the Corporation. Every morning, he left home dressed in a fine black suit. He then changed into overalls and spent the next eight hours as a dustman. Before returning home at night, he took a shower and changed back into his suit. Alf did this for over two years and his fellow dustmen kept his secret. Alf’s wife has never discovered that she married a dustman and she never will, for Alf has just found another job. He will soon be working in an office as a junior clerk. He will be earning only half as much as he used to, but he feels that his rise in status is well worth the loss of money. From now on, he will wear a suit all day and others will call him ‘Mr Bloggs’, not ‘Alf’.”

End of story. I first indulged in “The Double Life of Alfred Bloggs” as a 23-year-old novice teacher and found it funny. However, I wasn’t mature enough yet to get its underlying message.
Here’s another eye-opener. My first class in the secondary school graduated in the early 70s. A couple of years later, I bumped into Zsuzsi, one of the girls from that class. I greeted her cheerfully and asked how she was doing. “There’s no point in playing that game any more,” she said icily. “What d’you mean?” I stammered. “You never liked me, did you?” she said and walked on. She was right. I didn’t like her. Mind you, I’d always given her the best grade and made sure to hide my real feelings behind a reassuring smile. “Good teachers love their students,” training manuals warn us. Yes, but what if I don’t like some of them? Pretend affection perhaps? The trouble is that students, like Zsuzsi, can see through us. And they won’t forgive us, either.
For God’s sake, stop moralising, Peter.
Hey, who are you?
I’m your dummy self, and I won’t let you waffle. So what is it you’re getting at?
All I’m saying is that teachers lead a double life.
Especially you, Peter. You’re the biggest cheat.
Buzz off, dummy. I’m giving a lecture if you haven’t noticed. Let me get on with it, OK?

The world is complicated

Of course it’s not only teachers who pretend. Everybody does. We play all sorts of roles, as long as we live. The child and the adult. The friend and the enemy. The worker and the boss. The happy and the sad. The awake and the sleeping. The living and the dead. We’re ventriloquists.
All of us?
Yes, all of us. There’s little Jamie, for example. He bursts out crying, then switches to laughing, then cries again, and so on, until you get muddled up. Now, is he laughing or crying? Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? Permeable borders, conflicting roles. There’re no black and white situations.
Not a particularly genuine discovery, is it?
This reminds me of an old tale (Mer?, 1996). The emperor orders his wise men to summarise all the knowledge of the world in one single book. As a result of long years of debate, the scholars produce a thick book. By this time, however, the emperor has grown old, aware that he won’t have enough time to read such a thick book. So he orders his scholars to condense their thoughts into one thin book. By the time it’s completed, the emperor is very old. He realises that even this thin book is too long. So he orders the wisest scholar to synthesize all the wisdom of the world in just one sentence. After long deliberation, the sage is ready to report. “What is it?” the emperor demands. And the wise man says: “The world is complicated.”

Language is no less complicated

Mind you, language is no less complicated. Michael Bakhtin was a great Russian literary scholar and thinker from the first half of the 20th century. He used three key terms: heteroglossia, dialogism and ventriloquism (Bakhtin, 1981; Bakhtin, 1986). None of them is easy to understand.
So prick up your ears, folks.
Heteroglossia assumes the linguistic ability to select the most appropriate form to convey a communicative intention in a specific role. At the same time, it also implies that a word uttered in a particular situation at a particular time has a meaning different than it would have under any other conditions. In other words, heteroglossia refers to the coexistence and conflict between language and situation, text and context, the word and the world.
So far, so good. Now, what is dialogism?
A dialogue takes place to ease the tension which exists between the speaker and the listener. Or rather between the intended message and the interpretation of that message. How many partners are there in a dialogue?
Two or more.
Wrong. In the majority of dialogues, there’s only one participant, myself, carrying on an inaudible dialogue with my other self.
But that’s called a monologue!
Monologue is a misleading term, because it ignores the dialogic nature of any kind of interaction. Instead of the dialogue/monologue distinction, therefore, I suggest the terms, internal dialogue versus external dialogue. While in an internal dialogue I talk to myself in two or more voices, an external dialogue implies conversation between two or more individuals.
A friend of mine drew my attention to another interesting difference. The internal dialogue begins the moment I’m born (perhaps even in the womb) and ends when I pass away. It’s a non-stop process – I don’t switch off for a second. The external dialogue, on the other hand, is discontinuous, induced by situations which call for interlocutors. On such occasions, I pull the curtains apart, reveal my mind-screen, as it were, and turn on the sound.
Finally, whenever we say something, we speak through other voices. These voices are borrowed from past, present and future dialogues. Every word in language always half belongs to someone else, and thus the notion of sole ownership is a bogus one. A word becomes our own only when we populate it with our own intended messages. Bakhtin calls this ventriloquism.
Here comes me, the dummy, eh?
No, here comes the summary of this chapter. Today we live in a world of cognitive pluralism. We always have. In any culture and in any individual there exists not one, homogeneous mode of thinking, but many divergent modes. Hence the richness of linguistic expression. We speak in a poliphony of voices. Or in a cacophony. Nothing is stable in language and so there’s no clear window into the inner life of a person, for any window is always filtered through the glaze of language (Denzin, 1989). Words are elusive, and so are the people who use those words. All of us are… How shall I put it?
Hey, stop hurting us! What you’ve said so far is anything but uplifting.
Be patient, Dummy. Wait.
Anyway, when will you get down to us, teachers?
Right now. The title of the next chapter is “Teaching is messy.”
Oh, no! Not another put-down…

Teaching is messy

Teaching is a hopelessly messy business. Perhaps more so than any other human endeavour. It’s a molecular activity, and yet it’s often trivialised and its complexities are ignored (Shulman, 1987). Why is it messy? First of all, because of its intricate structure. It involves a number of institutions and a number of participants: politicians, ministry officials, inspectors, syllabus designers, teacher trainers, school principals, and so on.
And teachers and students…
Obviously. There’re just too many agents involved. The second problem is that, while the main purpose of teaching is to bring about learning, people are capable of learning even without the teacher.
And often despite the teacher.
Exactly. On the whole, we haven’t a clue what kind of teaching induces learning.
Down with teachers! Is that what you’re getting at?
Not at all. Good teachers do exist. The trouble is that the practical wisdom of competent teachers remains a largely untapped source of insights (Feiman-Nemser & Floden, 1986). As John Dewey (1929) said, their successes tend to be born and die with them… Anyhow, instruction is just one duty of the teacher.
What other duties does she have?
Pastoral care. She also acts as a motivator, comforter, ego supporter and a surrogate parent. To use Maslow’s word, the teacher is an unlicensed therapist. In this role, she moves close to the students. Simultaneously, however, she wears the hat of the policeman. In her role as a policeman…
OK. In her role as a policewoman, she distances herself from her pupils. Every teacher is bound to oscillate between these two roles. Our work has an ambivalent streak to it. We’re chameleons.
In addition, there’s an array of other roles we play outside the classroom. The teacher in the staffroom, in the corridor, on a school trip, at home, in the street – carrying two big bags, one stuffed with exercise-books, the other one with all the shopping for the family. And all these roles demand verbal interaction. Teachers talk their heads off, as a rule.
But what about teacher talking time?
Rubbish! A day in our lives consists of a never-ending series of interactions as we play our diverse roles. All tangled up in a mess. Herculean efforts are needed to tidy up this mess.


To make matters worse, the teaching operation is riven with conflicts. Conflicts lurk everywhere, in and outside the classroom. They feature in many guises, but most of them are caused by mixed responsibilities, demands and expectations, imposed by the groups and individuals who have a stake in education. And there we are, teachers…
Hopelessly struggling on – I hear you say.
I’m afraid so, yes. Let’s revisit the image of the good teacher. What’s she like? Well, it depends. Many people argue that the good teacher should be sober and morally impeccable. Others assert that, above all, she should be a strong person, a source of stability. Yet others claim that good teachers should be charismatic. And there’s a host of other qualities attached as reference points. Often in clear contradiction with one another. There’s no way we can reconcile these opposing views.
However, the real battle is waged not so much between the teacher and the other participants as between the two selves of the teacher. Pogo must be right in saying: “We met the enemy and he is us” (cited in Pajares, 1992: 319).

Below the surface

Hm. The internal dialogue comes back with a vengeance, doesn’t it?
Exactly. By the way, these internal conflicts are far more fascinating, partly because they’re invisible. What is visible is just the tip of the iceberg, and the lower you dive, the wider and thicker the iceberg becomes. Soon enough, you find yourself in complete darkness. Scared, you push yourself up to the surface again.
Would you be a bit less metaphorical and more specific, please?
OK. You’re in the classroom and you do this and that and the other. For example, you engage in communicative tasks. What’s behind your decision?
A good deal of professionalism. Knowledge, skills and experience.
Fair enough. But why do you do communicative tasks rather than drills?
Because drills don’t develop communicative abilities.
How do you know?
Come on, this is obvious!
Are you sure?
I’m positive.
What d’you think of teachers who refuse to do communicative tasks?
That they shouldn’t be allowed into the classroom.
Thank you, dummy. You’ve done an excellent job. Now, look at the different layers of the iceberg. Visible behaviour above the surface. Below that: knowledge and skills ? thoughts and ideas ? beliefs and attitudes ? emotions and value systems.  All invisible and hence relevant, to paraphrase Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince. And the deeper a component resides, the more it can predict overt behaviour (Pajares, 1992).
Several caveats are due here. Firstly, please don’t ask me to define any of these components, because we don’t have enough time.
And because you couldn’t explain them anyway.
That’s true; let’s leave the job of clarification to philosophers. Secondly, there’re no clear-cut division lines between these layers: interdependence is stronger than independence. Thirdly, and most importantly, our professional life is not self-contained – it’s largely determined by our personal life. Under the disguise of a school subject, we’re teaching ourselves: who we are, what we believe in, what we stand for, both as individuals and as employees of the education system (Claxton, 1990).
And there isn’t a moment of stability anywhere. Surface and deep levels on the one hand, and professional and non-professional domains on the other are in a constant state of movement. They often clash with one another, creating mismatches between teaching behaviour and the components underneath (Kennedy, 1996). In psychology, this phenomenon is called cognitive dissonance – an intriguing area for educational research, I should think.
But how can you investigate all this?
There’s only one way, I’m afraid. We have to get into the black box.

In the black box

By using a hammer?
Or by asking teachers to talk about themselves. Don’t forget: people are essentially story-telling animals. They love talking about both their personal and professional lives. About their background and their life-style. About both happy and sad moments (Goodson, 1992).
Are you sure they’ll open up and tell you the truth?
There’s no guarantee for that. The trouble is that we can’t view ourselves accurately and objectively. Our lenses are inevitably distorted.
Then what’s the point of interviewing them?
I think the picture you get on the basis of teacher narratives is still a lot more reliable and complex than what you can obtain through mere lesson observation. Which is not to say that observation is useless.
Be that as it may, once we’ve gained insight into teachers’ heads, we’re more likely to understand what makes them tick. And to understand why they feel threatened by change (Claxton, 1989).

The threat of change

Threatened? “Challenged” would be a more positive word, wouldn’t it?
Perhaps. In any case, it’s a platitude to say that everything in the universe is in a state of constant change. Education is no exception. We’re on the faultline, for ever sensing the scary tickle of tectonic movements. Changing theories, changing demands, changing students.
Becoming poetic again, eh?
Education is often said to be a conservative undertaking, and indeed teachers show a remarkable resistance to attempts to change them. This isn’t a birthmark, though. We’re conservative, because we need to have safe ground under our feet. Existing routines in the classroom provide a source of relative security, and any innovative idea is a threat to that stability (Prabhu, 1992).
But why this longing for security?
Why? Let me give you an example. Do you know how many interpersonal exchanges an ordinary teacher engages in in each lesson?
Not a clue.
Between two and three hundred (Jackson, 1968). Multiply this by six lessons per day…
Hatszor kett?, tizenkett?. Hatszor harom, tizennyolc. Annyit tesz, mint…
The sheer number, pace and variability of events call for quick fixes and established routines. Teaching is too complex and dynamic to allow for long deliberation and reflection. In fact, many of us run screaming in the opposite direction whenever we perceive the first whiff of change. I mean, teachers who have been on the job long enough.
Aren’t you going a bit too far, Peter?
I remember an in-service methodology seminar some twenty years ago. I’d been extolling the virtues of the Communicative Approach when an elderly colleague interrupted me. He said that the Communicative Approach might well work for some teachers and learners, but he’d continue to stick to Shakespeare. He said he’d been teaching English on nothing else but Shakespeare’s plays, and it had worked: most of his students had passed the state language examination, he claimed. I didn’t believe him then. I do now.
Because you’ve become more cynical, perhaps?
Cautious, not cynical. I no longer accept new concepts on trust. But I’m particularly suspicious of imported ideas.

Tissue rejection and lamination

Another critic of globalisation…
Let me give you an example. Martin Lamb (1995) reports on an Indonesian experience. A few years ago, he ran an in-service training course for teachers of English. At the end of the course, he received wonderful feedback. A year later, he revisited the same group of teachers and interviewed them about the results of the course. Do you know what he found?
No, but I’m ready for the worst.
He found that none of the ideas the participants had received so warmly a year before left any mark on their daily practices. A typical case of tissue rejection.
Tissue rejection. It’s a term borrowed from the medical sciences, where it’s used to describe failure in organ transplant, because the body’s immune system responds negatively (Holliday, 1994). A more subtle form of refusal is lamination (Claxton, 1984).
And what on earth is that?
Lamination refers to the attempt to lay new knowledge over old ideas, in the hope that it will lead to a transformation of beliefs. However, the results are only skin-deep. For all their goodwill, jet-in, jet-out experts seldom achieve more than lamination. Warmly welcome and then quickly forgotten. Therefore, you’d better take the success stories of short-term projects with a pinch of salt.
The point is that permanent and fundamental change can only be sparked off if we’re genuinely motivated to change. It’s an inevitable, but slow process. Especially changing our professional mindsets. So please don’t rush us.
Did you hear? Leave Peter alone! And let him drink a glass of water.
Thank you.

The stressed teacher

Now comes the saddest part of my talk. Teacher stress. Under the veneer of self-confidence, teachers are shy people, and many of us suffer from an inferiority complex.
Poor Peter! You really need an ego-boost, don’t you?
There’re countless reasons for our anxiety. First of all, in the vast majority of countries teachers are underpaid and, as a consequence, held in low esteem. At best, respect is mixed with contempt. Secondly, teaching is a job which offers few opportunities of promotion. You start out as a teacher in your twenties and retire as a teacher in your sixties. Thirdly, teaching is a lonely occupation. I’ve read somewhere that we have peers but no colleagues (Feiman-Nemser & Floden, 1986). In the staffroom, we like to chat about all sorts of things – except our immediate professional concerns. Isn’t it typical that teachers hardly ever visit each other’s classes? Finally, the classroom is full of booby traps: one clumsy step and we suffer yet another loss of face before our students.
As a safeguard against such hazards, we resort to various strategies. For example, I know teachers who are always ready to strike unprincipled compromises (Prabhu, 1992).
Such as?
Suppose you have a class of seventeen-year-olds and there’s a disruptive boy, who keeps bubbling gum. At each explosion of the gum, the class breaks into laughter. Now, instead of telling him to stop it, you pretend not to notice. In order to avoid confrontation.
This is a rather desperate strategy, isn’t it?
And counter-effective too; a sure recipe for losing the students’ trust. Nothing can be more embittering than a situation where the students pity the teacher, and then pity themselves for being saddled with such a pitiable teacher (Dry, 1977).
Another strategy to ward off anxiety is escaping into compulsive work (Jersild, 1955). The trouble is that workaholism, like drugs, fails to bring sustained relief. Then there’re teachers who shower attention on students, only to get disappointed when gratitude is not forthcoming. This is a strategy particularly characteristic of those who are frustrated in their private lives (Salzberger et al., 1983). Yet others get bored, burnt out and apathetic – symptoms of what Charles Curran called “the sickness to teach” (in Stevick, 1980: 108)…
Let me finish this chapter with the candid words of a teacher, quoted by Guy Claxton (1989: 33):
“As the years passed I discovered that I had developed a special school ‘personality’ which was a distortion of myself. I had built it up, at first quite unconsciously, but later it became a deliberately assumed mask. The ‘personality’ had to conceal my natural impatience, my moods, my fatigue and make me appear endlessly dynamic and reassuring. With it I wooed the children to learn by setting out to entertain them. It became increasingly difficult to switch off, without my crumbling into a disintegrated heap. I discovered that I had become a ‘character’ and was fast becoming a caricature of myself.”
There’s no escape, folks. Where’s the hook I can hang myself on?
Not so fast, Dummy! There’re at least two escape routes. One is escape escape. That is, quitting. Have you heard this one?
It was Monday morning and Mum was having a tough time preparing her son for another week at school.
“I’m not going to school today,” the boy said.
“What’s up this time?” Mum asked.
“Nobody likes me. The teachers don’t like me. The kids don’t like me. I just don’t want to go anymore,” he complained.
“Pull yourself together,” said his mother. “You’ve just got to go. You’re 40 years old and the headmaster of the school.”
But seriously, if you’re really fed up, throw in the towel. Better for you, better for your students. Alan Maley (1992) says that teaching is a permeable job: easy to enter, easy to leave. Indeed, thousands of teachers drop out year after year. We all know why. On the other hand…

On the other hand

For Christ’s sake, I’m sick and tired of your “on the one hand” and “on the other hand”. Why are you hedging your bets all the time?
I’m not. All I’m saying is that life offers no easy solutions. Have you seen the film “Fiddler on the roof”?
Yes, I have.
Do you remember Tevje, the milkman’s dialogues with God? He’s getting more and more desperate as his daughters, one after the other, decide to marry non-kosher guys. He demands an answer from God. However, as he realises that God doesn’t give a damn, he begins to look on the bright side. Those bridegrooms, on the one hand, are poor tailors, hot-headed revolutionaries or non-Jews, but on the other hand, quite nice chaps…
A Hungarian-born philosopher, Lakatos Imre (1978) said that blind commitment to any theory is not an intellectual virtue: it is an intellectual crime. So I am skeptical and ambivalent about everything under the sun… Here’s a story about a sage.
We’ve already heard that one!
No, this is a different story… Once upon a time, an old sage was asked by his disciples about the meaning of life. Unable to answer the question, he asked them to place him in a cave, give him enough food and drink, and then wall him for ten years. He said he’d ponder and meditate during his solitary confinement. So it happened. Exactly ten years later, surrounded by his disciples, the sage stepped out of the cave, tottering blindly, his beard long and mouldy. And he said: “Life is like a bottomless well.” The disciples stared at him in utter incomprehension. Finally, one of them broke the silence: “But why is life like a bottomless well?” To which the sage replied: “OK, then it isn’t like a bottomless well.”
Oh, you’re hopeless, Peter… Is this the end of your talk?
Wait! I haven’t explained the second route yet.
Why, is there a second one?
There’s always a second one, dummy! After I’ve messed up everything, it’s only fair to clean up the mess, isn’t it? Anyway, a good lecture should always end on a high note.

Stay put

So, as I’ve said, there’re at least two escape routes for teachers. One is to leave the profession. The other one, paradoxically, is to stay. And stay as happy teachers. However, to achieve this goal, we have to bear a few things in mind.
Such as?
First of all, we have to accept the fact that teaching is a complex business. Instead of complaining about it, we should regard it as a privilege. Let’s not forget that most people waste their lives doing the most primitive jobs.
Secondly, as I said earlier, teaching is a messy occupation. This reminds me of a story. As a school-teacher I used to take my pupils to the country in the summer. We would choose the most backward villages and live there for a couple of weeks. A real eye-opener for my city-kids! Our stay would always include work in a farmers’ cooperative. One morning, we were told to clean up a stable. As we entered, we saw that it was covered with dung. Picture my kids’ faces!
Or yours…
First we pinched our noses because of the smell, but we soon realised that we needed both hands for the shovelling job. Then we tried to avoid physical contact with the dung – in two minutes we were covered with shit from head to toe. And then, believe it or not, we burst into laughter. It was fun to be turned into pigs. And we couldn’t stop laughing until the stable had become so clean that we could see our reflection on the floor…
Are you suggesting that the classroom is a kind of stable?
Worse than that. It simply cannot be cleaned up. So we’d better enjoy it as it is…
Thirdly, we should also consider that complexity implies unpredictability. If someone gives you advice on what should be done in a given situation, smile at them politely, and do the opposite.
In an interview, Hungarian Nobel-prize winner Szent-Gyorgyi Albert was asked how he would choose a new topic for research. He said he’d always start out from his hunches. After a period of incubation, he’d confide his rough idea to a couple of fellow-researchers. If they liked the idea, he’d chuck it. However, if they believed that he was on the wrong track, he’d give it serious consideration.
Strange logic, isn’t it?
In his view, only shocking or absurd ideas can hope to be genuinely innovative. All the rest can do no more than confirm the ruling dogma. Well-trodden paths didn’t whet his curiosity, you see.
Time to return to the classroom, don’t you think?
In the classroom, nobody is in a better position to resolve dilemmas than the teacher. Kibitzers know much less. Since groping in the dark is our default mode, a high level of ambiguity tolerance is a hallmark of good teachers.

Act on impulse

But what if we don’t have the answer, either?
Then we should act on impulse. I say impulse, and not conviction, because convictions narrow down our focus. Legend has it that the 19th century American thinker and writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was once rebuked for saying something that was in sharp contradiction with what he’d said a year before. To which Emerson replied: “This only shows how much I’ve developed in one year.”
If impulse is the right form of response, we don’t need to plan our lessons. Is that what you’re saying?
Not exactly. We do need a lesson plan, if only to have something to throw away after the lesson has got going. Let’s act on the spur of the moment. Let’s keep up with the flow. Good teachers unfold the class in sync with their students’ responses, always ready to negotiate with them. Bad teachers, on the other hand, relentlessly stick to their agenda. In order to complete what they’ve planned to complete. They’re unable to switch from internal into external dialogue mode.
All I want to point out is that teaching contains a good deal of irrational element and creative intuition. Adrian Underhill (2000) is right in saying that “intuition is a human faculty ideally designed for working with complexity.” There’s no logical path to good teaching results.

Is teaching an art?

Is teaching an art then?
Not in the strict sense of the word. It’s not in the same category as painting, music or dance. However, if art is something which can’t be carried out successfully by following a set of rules of thumb, then teaching is a form of art (Corder, 1973). It’s a highly individualised activity. Eric Hoyle said that a teacher is “like all other teachers, like some other teachers, like no other teachers” (1969: 40). I’d like to stress our uniqueness. In agreement with Lortie (1975) I believe that teachers are largely self-made. Although teacher education may provide various forms of assistance, the role of experience is far more crucial.
So you’re a better teacher today than you were 25 years ago. Is that what you mean?
Hmmm. I’m not so sure. Trouble is that while we’re getting more and more experienced, we’re getting more and more tired too. It’s a sad paradox…
But let me return to the relationship of teaching and art. Which form of art would you say teaching is closest to?
The theatre, isn’t it?
I couldn’t agree more. The teacher is a performing artist (Rives, 1979). A stand-up comedian at her best. Bad teachers are bad comedians, who must be pushed onto the stage, only to be dragged down after they’ve stammered their text to the last line. Good teachers, on the other hand, leap onto the stage and lose themselves in the act. At the same time, they know how to involve the audience, how to ad-lib and when to move on.
What you’re suggesting is that teachers are clowns. How embarrassing!
Only incompetent teachers feel embarrassed. It’s precisely this embarrassment that makes them unfit for their role.

All that pretention

But isn’t there a good deal of pretention in playing this role?
No more than playing other roles. Just think of the physicians doing their rounds in the hospital. The professor strutting at the head, with his two assistants one step behind him, followed by the asssistants’ assistants and the nurses bringing up the rear. In the proper pecking order, everybody looking terribly grand. No winking to the audience, no asides. I find the choreography perfect, yet irresistibly funny…
It’s easy to poke fun at doctors. Don’t you think that teachers look just as ridiculous?
Oh, there’s no doubt about it! Nothing can be more ridiculous than a teacher who tries to behave like a teacher… This reminds me of an anecdote by the philosopher Johan Huizinga. On entering the children’s room, Father sees his four-year-old son playing with his electric train. As he bends down to kiss him, the boy says: “Don’t kiss the engine, Dad, because the carriages won’t believe that he’s real.”… Anyway, I no longer take myself so bloody seriously. And it’s much easier this way.
And what’s the students’ role in this set-up? The audience?
More than that. They’re involved in the show as partners, from beginning to end. There’s two-way communication between teachers and students. I believe that we can derive a great deal of satisfaction from this bond. And relief from our anxieties, too. Students are there to provide us with a constant source of success.
I thought they are there to learn…

Don’t worry – be happy!

Anyway, we’ve run out of time, Peter. Time for the punch-line.
The punch-line? Let me make a confession instead. Throughout my career, I’ve done my best to enjoy myself. To squeeze as much pleasure out of my job as I possibly could. Sweat? Tears? Worries? No, thank you.. Humour? Laughter? Fun? Yes, please. I remember, when 20 lessons was the compulsory teaching load per week at school, I fought tooth and nail not to teach more than 20 – and less if possible. I didn’t want to become a teaching automaton. Against all odds, I wanted to remain a happy teacher.
Me, me, me! Always yourself. Do you ever consider what your students want?
I come first, they come second. Mind you, it’s not sheer egoism. There’s some logic in it, too.
I wonder what.
It’s as simple as this. If I’m unhappy, my students will be unhappy too. However, if I’m happy…
Then your students will be happy too.
Not necessarily. But at least they stand a chance.
Did you get it, folks? Don’t worry! Be happy!
[While the song “Don’t worry, be happy!” is being played from the tape, this quote comes up on the OHP:
“People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that that’s what we are really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical place will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive” (Campbell in Edge, 1996: 26).]


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Bakhtin, M.M. (1986) Speech genres and other essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Claxton, G. (1984) Live and learn. London: Cassell Education Ltd.
Claxton, G. (1989) Being a teacher: a positive approach to change and stress. London: Cassell Education Ltd.
Claxton, G. (1990) Teaching to learn: a direction for education. London: Cassell Education Ltd.
Corder, S.P. (1978) Introducing applied linguistics. Penguin Education.
Denzin, N.K. (1989) Interpretive biography. London and Delhi: Sage.
Dewey, J. (1929) The sources of a science of education. New York: Liveright.
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Feiman-Nemser, S. & Floden, R.E. (1986) The cultures of teaching. In: Wittrock, M.C. (ed.) Handbook of research on teaching. Third edition. New York: Macmillan. pp. 505-526.
Goodson, I.F. (1992) Studying teachers’ lives: problems and possibilities. In: Goodson, I.F. Studying teachers’ lives. London: Routledge. pp. 534-549.
Holliday, A. (1994) Appropriate methodology and social context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hoyle, E. (1969) The role of the teacher. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Jackson, P.W. (1968) Life in classrooms. New York & London: Teachers College, Columbia University.
Jersild, A.T. (1955) When teachers face themselves. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
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Lakatos, I. (1978) The methodology of scientific research programmes. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
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Maley, A. (1992) An open letter to the ‘profession.’ ELT Journal 46/1: 96-99.
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Prabhu, N.S. (1992) The dynamics of the language lesson. TESOL Quarterly 26/2: 225-41.
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Schon, D. (1983) The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
Shulman, L.S. (1987) Knowledge and teaching: foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review 57/1: 1-22.
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Teaching subject in English – a challenge or a new opportunity?

Written by: Magdalena Tsavkova, Krassimira Chakarova
American College of Sofia There is no question that speaking a foreign language today is a necessity and in particular English immerged in our schools not only as a separate language discipline. The number of subjects thought in English constantly increases thus giving the teachers the opportunity to explore this new challenge. Through content learning students broaden their vocabulary, their performance and confidence increases, and they have the chance to be competitive on international exams, like SATs, for example. On the other hand a subject thought in English hides some problems – explanations of concepts are not always meaningful for students and their performance on native competitions, like Olympiads, could be affected. The main concern is the teacher and students proficiency in English – to what extent the foreign language affects the interaction between learners and instructors in the classroom? We think that the professional development of those teachers is very important and we would like to mention the positive influence of “Science Across the World” project in Bulgaria and the magazine FACT (Forum for Across the Curriculum teaching) and the establishment of Special Interest Group (SIG) within IATEFL.
In this article we would like to present some classroom activities that combine language with content learning we use in our school. The American College of Sofia has established a long-time tradition of teaching all academic subjects in English. Plunging students in a 100% English language environment encourages and requires their continuous improvement of understanding and communication skills. We are aware of the difficulties, which our students meet, especially after their first preparatory year at the College. To make the transition to higher-grade level smooth in the last three years we introduced a one-semester science course in grade eight. The purpose of the course is not so much to teach specific knowledge but rather introduce some basic vocabulary and lab skills. Our experience shows that students in the prep year enjoy this course and benefit a lot from it – they come more motivated and enthusiastic to study science. Here is a short course syllabus:
Science in the preparatory class

  • Subject matter of science
  • Working in the science lab
  • Separations lab
  • Density lab
  • Physical properties of matter
  • Chemical change
  • Pigments lab
  • Flower dissection. Plant parts lab
  • Tree observation
  • Snow study
  • Science in the news
  • Science projects

Another approach for ensuring science success is establishing standard criteria for assessment. In the students’ handbook and College web site this information can be found.
We would like to recommend the web site, which is a wonderful resource for various topics in a format suitable to be used both in science and English language classes.

Making memorizing easy and fun

Memorizing can’t be avoided in our classes but here are some examples of how it can be made fun for students:

  • Sentence construction activity: Students are divided into groups. Each group receives an envelope with pieces of sentences (the teacher needs to type and cut the sentences in advance) The group of students which first arranges all the sentences correctly is the winner. This activity could be applied for learning definitions, rules or even lows and formulas.
  • The omega competition: Another example of a fun activity is to make students apply their knowledge in creating or “reading” drawings which combine a symbol or a formula with a picture and presents an idiomatic phrase or expression widely used. The W symbol stands for the unit which measures resistance in physics. It is pronounced “ohm” and can be involved in the following ways:ΩC6H12O which is literally “ohm” the formula of glucose “ohm” and because of the sweet taste of glucose should be read as: “Ohm sweet Ohm!” evidently corresponding to the expression “Home, sweet home!”
    Or, what is this? Ω = F.d Of course, for everybody who knows the definition of mechanical work it is “Ohm = work”. Simply it stands for” Homework”.

Such activities can not only make learning and memorizing easier but also give a break for students who face difficulties with the applying science concepts.

God, Man and themes of Mortality In Emily Bronte’s Poetry

Written by: Iana Boutchkova, Full-time PhD Student
Department of English Philology, The Paissij Hilendarski University of Plovdiv

I’m happiest when most away
I can bear my soul from its home of clay
On a windy night when the moon is bright
And the eye can wander through worlds of light –
When I am not and none beside –
Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky –
But only spirit wandering wide
Through infinite immensity.

Inside the theme of Nature in Emily Bronte’s poetry, another smaller, but not less crucial, discourse could be discerned: the relationship between man and God tinted with lyric variations on the theme of mortality. The topic in hand is something which nineteenth-century critics (urged by Victorian piety and common sense, with the particular contribution of Charlotte Bronte’s moralistically strewn Preface to the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights) deliberately shunned to analyse; but a topic that modern introspective criticism takes a particular interest in. Doubtless, Emily Bronte’s poetic heritage provides a wide enough field for the treatment of both the dramatic texture of her verse and its existential boundaries: the latter is what the present paper tries to trace. It would be appropriate, therefore, to briefly discuss the following issues:

  • the Spirit if Nature and the Spirit of man
  • the chthonian dimensions of Emily Bronte’s idea of time and space
  • the poet’s vision of the mutually dependant terms of sin, repentance and solitude
  • the borderline between the terms Universe and Self

The present analysis does not strictly limit itself within Emily Bronte’s much-discussed imaginary world of Gondal present in her poetry. It does, nonetheless, follow Hatfield’s edition of her poems – a classic source for all Bronte scholars (‘Gondalians’ and ‘non-Gondalians’, the ultimate goal being to perceive the specificities of the poet’s mystically orientated philosophy of life.
* * *
The Spirit of Nature and the Spirit of Man
As Richard Benvenuto puts it, a major problem of Emily’s poetry arises from a crucial principle of life. Namely, “nature releases the soul from its confinement to itself, (…) but as the physical world it presents to the soul only what is material and visible, while the soul yearns for the invisible and the spiritual” (Benvenuto, p. 61). God is one source for the spiritual, and although Emily seeks the traditional help of the soul-purging and alleviating Christian faith, she reaches further on for something strictly personal: a God/ Gods of her own – both tangible like Nature and original and extra-mundane like man’s consciousness. A deeper analysis shows that the poet is incessantly ‘torn apart’ hesitating between interpreting the self either as the only objective reality known to the individual consciousness and between that of the mind being the subjectively transforming principle in the independently existing world of Nature outside the self.
If the former be true then the critic is stunned at reading the following lines Cf H140 – In Summer’s mellow midnight, Sept. 1840):

I sat in silent musing,
The soft wind waved my hair:
It told me Heaven was glorious,
And sleeping Earth was fair.

In which case the Natural element is a an inlet into the world of the transcendentally accepted mind beyond, the mind above all and before all, which, being ‘unprovisional’ and unchallenged, could adequately be referred to only as God (Cf Bolnoff, pp. 45-54).
If, on the other hand, the latter be true, then one would be more than puzzled to read the following verse (H44):

I’m happiest when most away
I can bear my soul from its home of clay
On a windy night when the moon is bright
And the eye can wander through worlds of light
When I am not and none beside –
Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky –
But only spirit wandering wide
Through infinite immensity.

Paradoxically, the whole universe here is devoid of its primary constituents. Moreover, the spirit in hand could not be specifically and uncompromisingly defined as one belonging to the speaker, the poet, God, or even the wind. Rather, the reader is carried into the extra-temporal and non-chronological realm of Kant’s duratio noumenon – an eternity incompatible with the term time, but compatible with the sense a particular man’s life carries in its existential dimensions.
Still, in Emily Bronte’s poetry there is enough evidence of the poet being well acquainted with, and obviously bred by, Christian piety that makes man revere all living creatures, no matter how superior or inferior man might be to them. And, as nothing dies off in Nature, but leaves a trace behind, the wind is often an embodiment of God:

And thou art now a spirit pouring
Thy presence into all –
The essence of the Tempest’s roaring
And of the Tempest’s fall –
A universal influence
From thine own influence free;
A principle of life, intense,
Lost to mortality.
H148, July 6 1848

The everpresent universal influence could be connected with the poet’s idealistic vision of the Almighty. What the second stanza emphasizes is not a mere split of the self, but an allusion to Jesus’ Crucifixion and God’s benevolence ever after (as well as before), the Son ascended to Heaven (compare the lines italicized). The magnanimity of the Holy Spirit is in Nature that never expires but esoterically reproduces itself in various forms – man being a metamorphosed particle of it (his intellectual advantage only endowing him with a graver burden to carry – that of the Earth’s fate).
An evangelical idea of man’s redemptive death is elucidated in H183 (Death, that struck when I was most confiding), where Death is called forth to strike “Time’s withered branch” so that “its mouldering corpse” may “nourish that from which it sprung – Eternity”. And that is a “relationship between vine to branch” that “obtains both between God and creature, and between parent and child” (Tayler, p. 56).
Chthonian Dimensions of Time and Space and the Poet’s Perception of Immortality
In Emily Bronte’s viewpoint, Man possesses one feature that undeniably gives him the chance to remain what one was in one’s lifetime: and that is that, at some point, one’s life comes to an end. Ironically, all the characters of the Gondal saga are given the chance of a reunion with their native land (and true self) at death. For example (Cf H102):

In English fields my limbs were laid
With English turf beneath my head:
My mortal flesh you might debar,
But not the eternal fire within.

Or, to recall Cathy’s deathbed soliloquy spoken to Linton: “What you touch at present you may have; but my soul will be on that hill-top before you lay hands on me again.” (Cf, Wuthering Heights, ch. 12, p. 93).
There are many examples of poems where the grave, in the physical perception of this word, is but the threshold into the world that exceeds the traditional system of mans senses as well as man’s imagination. It is a way out into a world of its own, where the soul unites with its true spirit. Deviating from both the traditional Christian reverence for the passed-away (and therefore innocent) individual, the poet glorifies the grave as the shelter from all socially grounded strains and glorification of only one Deity. In H147 the lyrical speaker craves for “a Heaven more like this Earth”. As in H126 man is treading over the dead, preparing oneself for one’s future home; so, the hero from H182 considers the ‘tomb already more than his’ – a tomb that provides one with the ‘divine anguish’ one is deprived of in the ‘empty world without’. The division of the self in life, therefore, proves to be the one thing that subverts man’s comfortably relaxed daily routine but is the foreground to each one’s authenticity in the afterlife.
Within the bounds of the Romantic ideology, the limits civilized society imposes on man could be seen to whet the poet’s thirst for a reunion with Nature that, ironically, could only be accomplished in death when the body gradually and literally merges with the soil whence it came. In the light of the latter, two thirds of Emily Bronte’s poetry appear to be an attempt to reformulate eschatology into ontology, i.e. the study of existence beyond ousts the study of the purpose of one’s existence here and now (which, eventually, only becomes possible through the study of death, so that, what might seem futile in the present, is given importance to through its interpretation after death) (Cf Stoyanov, p. 61).
* * *
Sin, Repentance, Solitude
When in H149 Emily treads the earth beneath the turf of the graveyard, wishing to remember the woe she has seen on the earth she is actually arguing that no pre-conditioned passing into the world beyond could efface the existentially burdened sense a person’s life has come to make here and now. What is more, the blissfully accepted regularity of the paradise proves so meager against the sin-laden fleetingness of man’s real life. Cf:

I see around me piteous tombstones grey
Stretching their shadows far away.
Beneath the turf my footsteps tread
Lie low and lone the silent dead;
Let me remember half the woe
I’ve seen and heard and felt below,
And heaven itself, so pure and blest,
Could never give my spirit rest.

The process of self-deprivation of the rewarding idea of a Heaven in the afterlife Emily further on develops in her Belgian essay Le Papillon (i.e. The Butterfly – written as a homework during her stay at Pensionnat Heger in Brussels – 1842). It reads:

Nature is an inexplicable problem, it exists on a principle of destruction. Every being must be the tireless instrument of death to others, or itself must cease to live, yet nonetheless we celebrate the day of our birth, and we praise God for having entered such a world.
It is true that there is a heaven for the saint, but the saint leaves enough misery here below to sadden him even before the throne of God.

Although Nature does seem to imprison the soul within the body, yet it affirms the poet’s belief that to man the act of existence alone remains more relevant than the notion of salvation after one expires. In other words, the traditional Christian conceptions of purgatory and hell are replaced by the idea of a lasting rest or a union with nature. The idea of suffering after death is unacceptable, because life with its many ills and anguish is penance enough. (…) if there is no heaven to hope for, there neither can be a hell to fear” (Ghnassia, pp. 97 – 103). “ If God exists, then if we don’t behave properly we shall be damned, if he doesn’t it doesn’t matter anyway. (…) the devil does not punish you for behaving well, but God punishes you for behaving badly” (ibid., p. 155).
The destructiveness of Nature is actually something that makes one reconsider one’s centeredness on the self and embrace a wider view of reality – one based, in its essence, on experience rather than on pure analysis. For that matter, St Augustin says, the somewhat egotistic expectation of Christ’s sacrifice being made for the benefit of all humanity, one ought to realize that Christ’s life was but a single life exemplary for its irreversible love of mankind…
The Self of the Universe and the Universe of the Self
In Bronte’s works the traditional monotheistic Christian model of the Universe is ousted by a polytheistic system of symbols, all equally elusive and reproducible within one another. In such a system, where death is a mechanism and condition for existence, man’s existence proves still more unique within every single person, regardless of man’s proclivity to transgress.
The fiddliest poem of Emily Bronte’s to analyse ever is one of her last – H191 (Jan 2, 1846). On the one hand, it refutes scholars’ arguments that she must have been an anti-theist, on the other, it still does not do away with certain doubts about her sticking to atheism.

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear
O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though Earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is no room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

While the first two stanzas affirm the poet’s faith in God, the third stanza stresses the worthlessness of all men’s creeds. Notwithstanding, stanza V confirms the magnanimous creativity of God’s essence. Yet, stanza II and VI suggest that, although a superior force is described, Emily Bronte obviously denies a purely “instinctive belief in a supernatural power, albeit a pantheistic one” (Chitham, p.65). In stanza II it says that the personal existence of a single human being makes it possible for God to be, but God is a God “within my breast”, unlike any other traditional vision about an omnipotent power and intellect. In addition, the equivocal stanza VI claims that if all else perished, he/ she would remain turning into a multitude of various forms of existence, which virtually means that all forms of life would be preserved in an abstract unified whole. Quite clearly, the eternal Spirit is viewed through Nature: “ ‘Atom’ and ‘Breath’ (stanza VII) are physiological terms being made into absolutes. The mind is felt to be capable of apprehending what is outside the mind” (Cf ll. 3-4) (Hardy in: Anne Smith, p. 115). The Deity is an eternal self, whose continuity depends on the assurance on the constancy of the primary other, of the world that is (Wion in: Linda Peterson, pp. 323-324).
Although strewn with Deistic hints, the poem gives one strong reasons for believing that Emily Bronte’s mature works contain plausible evidence for a tendency for her to cling to German-bred subjective idealism. In many poems one is seduced to believe that the speaker is only certain about the existence of his own mind and through it – of the existence of the external reality. Logically, with one’s death one’s own world is destroyed, for there is no more a consciousness to construct it, yet No coward soul is mine suggests a higher – ominously tangible super-ratio that would preserve the specificity of the speaker’s world. Another variation of the authenticity of this two-individual universe is discerned in poem H137, which reads:

I’d ask for all eternity
To make a paradise for me,
My love – and nothing more!

The beloved here substitutes the ever-present deity from No coward soul is mine. In other words, as Catherine’s confesses about her love for Heathcliff in chapter 9 of Wuthering Heights:

“(…) there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you… my great thought in living is himself. If al else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it… Nelly, I am Heathcliff!

It is remarkable, indeed, how the poet manages to affirm the existence of a hyper-rational being who is at once a part of, and a container for, man’s authenticity. To make the picture more complete and complex, one would remember poem H168 where Emily describes the vastness and esoteric profundity and abstractness of her soul:

What my soul bore
My soul alone within its self may tell.

* * *
Emily Bronte builds up an undeniably intricate modus vivendi, which – thanks to its complexity and interdiscoursivity – speaks of a Nature that possesses purposiveness (which is what modern twentieth-century poetry lacks most [Beach, p. 8])… Latent in that interdiscoursivity of being is the counter-Calvinistic idea that the sense of one’s life could only be arrived at by one’s own will and by the person himself. If so, if one life was lived out in a wholesome and complete manner (albeit contrary to common epistemological perceptions) there would be no reason why death should be shunned… To go precipitously further, within Emily’s philosophy, the soul that contains the whole universe is the only one to grant one the revitalizing prayer, i.e. the ability to transcend oneself by looking within, and create hell of heaven and heaven of hell (Ghnassia, pp. 158, 168)…
Emily Bronte’s ontological ‘proposal’ then does not imply a denial of the virtue represented through Christian piety, but rejects despair and humility of thought which could be viewed as the greatest sin in a universe where man should always be able to see through the superior creative power (also called natura naturans) the actively non-finite variety of the created (also called natura naturata) and vice versa. It is the latter ability that secures man a position so unique in Nature.
Text Editions

  • Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 1992
  • (ed.) Hatfield, C. W., The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Bronte, New Work: Columbia University Press, 1941
  • (ed. & transl.) Lonoff, Sue, The Belgian Essays. Charlotte and Emily Bronte. A Critical Edition, Yale University Press, 1996

Critical Reference

  • (ed.) Allott, Miriam, Emily Jane Bronte. Wuthering Heights. A Selection of Critical essays, Macmillan
  • Homans, Margaret, Transcending the Problems of Sexual Identity, 1980, source: Women Writers and Poetic Identity. Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, New York: Princeton, 1980
  • Van Ghent, Dorothy, Dark “Otherness” in Wuthering Heights, 1953, source: The English Novel. Form and Function, 1953
  • Visick, Mary, The Genesis of Wuthering Heights, 1958, source: The Genesis of Wuthering Heights, 1958
  • Beach, Joseph Warren, The Concept of Nature in Nineteenth-Century English Poetry, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936
  • Benvenuto, Richard, Emily Bronte (chapter 3: Poetry), Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982
  • (transl. in Russian.) Bolnoff, Otto, Filosofia ekzistentzializma. Filosofia sustchestvovania, Sankt-Peterburg: Lan’, 1999
  • Chitham, Edward, The Birth of Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte at Work, St. Martin’s Press, 1998
  • Daleski, H. M., The Divided Heroine. A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels (chapter 2: Wuthering Heights. The World of Contraries), New York London: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1984
  • Frank, Katherine, Emily Bronte. A Chainless Soul, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1990
  • Ghnassia, Jill Dix, Metaphysical Rebellion in the Works of Emily Bronte. A Reinterpretation, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1994
  • Harrison, G. Elsie, Haworth Parsonage, A Study of Wesley and the Brontes, London: The Epworth Press, 1937
  • (in Bulg.) Kaltchev, Ivan, Metafizika na smartta, Sofia: Biblioteka ‘Nov Den’ – 3, 1993
  • Patterson Charles (Jr.), Empathy and the Daemonic in Wuthering Heights in: (ed.) Goodin, George, The English Novel in the 19th Century. Essays on Literary Mediation of Human Values, Illinois Studies in Language and Literature, University of Illinois Press, 1974
  • Sherry, Norman, PhD, Charlotte and Emily Bronte (chapter 2: Background and Influences, chapter 7: The Poetry of Emily Bronte), ARCO, New York, 1970
  • (ed.), Smith, Anne, The Art of Emily Bronte, Vision and Barns & Noble, 1976
  • Hardy, Barbara, The Lyricism of Emily Bronte
  • (in Bulg.) Stoyanov, Tzvetan, Niskite, koito se prekasvat. Problemat za alienatziata v literaturata I obstestvenata psihologia na Zapad, ‘Narodna mladez’, 1967
  • Tayler, Irene, Holy Ghosts. The Male Muses of Emily and Charlotte Bronte (chapter 1: Emily Bronte’s Poetry), New York: Columbia University Press, 1990
  • Wang, Lisa, PhD, The Use of Theological Discourse in the Works of the Bronte Sisters, Birkbeck College, University of London, Submitted for the Degree of PhD 1998
  • Wion, Philip K., The Absent Mother in Wuthering Heights, in: (ed.) Peterson, Linda, Wuthering Heights (with biographical and historical contexts, critical history and essays from five contemporary critical perspectives), Boston New York: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1992

Tales and stories in teaching English to student-teachers of English in the primary school

Written by: Zhivka S. Ilieva Abstract
There are tales and stories interesting for all ages. Stories are rich material for foreign language lessons. They are bearer of different cultural and moral values and base for various exercises: reading comprehension, listening comprehension,speaking and writing tasks, creative activities. Children like stories so it would be useful to their teachers to be acquainted with some stories in English in order to heighten students’ interest.

1. Introduction

Tales are the oldest spiritual companion of people. Very long ago first tales have been short and with simple structure but with the time passing they have become longer, richer, complicated stories. They have always been a source of moral values, a kind of religion, philosophy, science. They have always enchanted and fascinated children as well as adults.

2. Stories and Tales

There are stories and tales interesting for all ages. I use both terms – story and tale in my paper because I use them both in my practice, though more often I say story, may be because of the books I use: “Five-minute stories”, “The storytelling Handbook”. But in “The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory” by J.A.Cuddon there is no definition of story. There are definitions of short story, tall story, story within a story, frame story. The definition of tale begins as follows:

“A narrative, written (in prose or verse) or spoken. When in prose barely distinguishable from a short story.” and about the short story it is said that “this is one of the most elusive forms.”(Cuddon, J. 1991: 954, 864)

In the same dictionary it is written that

“The fairy tale belongs to folk literature and is part of the oral tradition of every nation.
In its written form the fairy tale tends to be a narrative in prose about the fortunes and misfortunes of a hero or heroine who, having experienced various adventures of a more or less supernatural kind, lives happily ever after. Magic charms, disguise and spells are some of the major ingredients of such stories, which are often subtle in their interpretation of human nature and psychology.” (Cuddon, J. 1991: 324)

There are Tales and Stories suitable for all levels of language proficiency.
Emma Solloway says,

“Fairy tales are for all levels and ages. They operate on two levels: the literal (“What happens?”) likely to interest children; and the symbolic (“What does it represent?”), likely to interest adults.” (Solloway, E. 1993)

That’s why they are suitable both for students at school and for students at University.

3. Enquiry

Since the students I teach are going to be Primary School teachers, I thought it would be useful for them to deal with stories and fairy tales in English so I made an inquiry concerning stories in order to investigate their opinion on that matter. The first question was “Do you like stories?” (Yes or No). All of them – 100% circled “Yes”. The next question – “Why?” most of them answered “Because they take me away from reality”, because I like to dream, because they are interesting, because children like them or something similar. The question “Would you use stories in your classes?” most of them – approximately 83,3% answered “Yes” and 16,7 % – No, because a lack of time. The question “How would you use them?” had various answers: as reading compehension exercises (most of them) as listening compehension exercises, for text-related tasks (answering questions, making illustrations, drawing a film (succession of pictures) writing the end or the beginning of a story, discussions, retelling the story etc.) for acting out, for grammar exercises to choose or make a suitable melody for that story, to find the moral.
The answers showed me that these particular students liked stories and would be willing to use them in their teaching experience in different ways. This result made me think that they would not mind if I use tales and stories in my classes with them. Moreover stories are very rich material for our lessons. On the one hand they are interesting as texts – the subject-matter, the cultural information they bear, the morals they give, and we know that students work better when they have something interesting in front of them. On the other hand thanks to their richness, we may invent different exercises and tasks using those interesting texts depending on the level of the students, on the topic and the aim of the lesson, on the grammar structures and words we want to reimforce … or introduce.

4. Stories as Reading and Listening Compehension Texts

We may give different reading and listening compehension tasks depending on the story and on our aims. The task may be:

  • Circle the correct answer (multiple choice)
  • True or false
  • Guess the meaning of the following words
  • Find synonyms or antonyms of the following words
  • Write the following sentences in the correct order
  • Answer the questions

4.1. Circle the correct answer

Not all stories are suitable for multiple choice questions. There should be something misleading – more characters, more events. Students will have to read carefully the whole story in order to choose the right answer. Suilable for this type of questions is “Elizabeth” (Ecceleshare, J., 1995: p.23-25).

4.2. True or false

Almost all stories are suitable for true or false exercises. They may be complicated a bit by adding an extra task: if the statement is not correct, write the correct one.

4.3. Guess the meaning of the following words; find synonyms or antonyms

Not all stories are suitable for guess the meaning of the words and find a synonym or antonym. There sould be unfamiliar words for the group we are teaching and the meaning of those words should be recognisable from the context. Suitable for this is the story “The Elephant’s Picnic” (Ecceleshare, J., 1995: p.130-131). It is very productive for discussions also. I gave my students the following task – think of a moral for that story. They were talking about the elephant and its friend – the kangaroo, about their attitude and their doings, about the picnic they made together. They finally reached to three different morals: If you don’t know how to do something, don’t do it at all; A man is known by the company he keeps; In good company the most awful food tastes good. These are three completely different morals for the same story – the students were divided into three groups for the discussion. And each group had good reasons to give that moral to the story.

4.4. Write the sentences in the correct order

For the task “Write the sentences in the correct order” we need a story wth lots of events. We write sentences about the events in the story and change their order – we mix them up. If there are enough events in the story, students have to read very carefully the whole story in order to be able to arrange the sentences properly. Such stories are “Koala” (Ecceleshare, J., 1995: p.161-2).

4.5. Answer the Questions

For “Answer the questions” we again need text with lots of events or details. Students have to answer a few questions concerning the story. Sometimes the aim of these questions is retelling the story with just a few sentences. If we practise the present tense, we may choose a story in the present tense. If we practise the past tense, we may choose a story in the past tense. Thus students practise sequencing of tenses and other peculiarities of retelling – transferring of direct into indirect speech – thus through practice they remember easier that in retelling here becomes there, today – that day, tomorrow – the day after etc.
Stories are such a rich material that we cannot limit them to one type of exercises only. We may give a reading or listening comprehension task and then a speaking or writing task.

5.Speaking and Writing Tasks

5.1. Discussion.

The most popular speaking task is discussion. Students may discuss the cultural and moral values implied in the story, the characters, the events and places described, the feelings the story inspires. They may compare them to other similar ones in other stories. An example of such a discussion was choosing a suitable moral for the story “The Elephant’s picnic”

5.2. Creative writing

Writting tasks are most often connected with creative writing – students have to use their creativity in order to invent a beginning or an end of a story. They may have to write a similar story – sad or joyous; something similar they have experienced; or a story with the same moral. All these writing tasks give students opportunity to use and enrich their imagination, their experience; thus they use some motives of the stories they know both in English and in Bulgarian. Through their writing I can follow their development in foreign language learning and acquisition. These works show me how well they can express their thoughts in English; if they really enrich their vocabulary, if they have acquired the new grammatical structures.

6. Grammar tasks.

There are exercises that reinforce certain grammar item – a tense, a specific structure. They may be quite different; most often they are writing tasks.
E.g. Pick up all the verbs from the story, mark the irregular ones and write their forms. Write the story into the present (if it is in the past) or write it in the past tense (if it is in the present). Having copied the verbs, students now have the skeleton of a story. We may give them the task to write a story using these verbs as a skeleton.
Another grammatical story-based exercise is using a story, which consists of dialogue primarily for turning the direct speech into indirect speech e.g. the story “The Bet” (Ecceleshare, J., 1995: p.11-12). This story is quite long so there is enough material for working in class and for homework.
There are statements “I win”, questions “What are you thinking about?”, commands “Look out of your window” – Gloria said”.
So we can practise turning from direct into indirect speech of different sentences where the verb is in different moods – indicative, imperative, interrogative.
The exercise my students liked best was based on the story “The Mouse and Winds” (Ecceleshare, J., 1995: p.145). It is in the past tense. The students had to answer a few questions and their next task was: Continue asking and answering similar questions in the past tense. The aim of the questions was more grammatical – to practice the past simple tense and to retell the story in the past simple; and lexical – to remember certain words. The students liked it because they considered it applicable in classes with primary students in some later stages. That motivated them to make some very interesting translations. The story belongs to the chapter titled “The world we live in” and the words used in it represent entities from the surrounding world: boat and lake, house and roof, tree, mountain, island, wind. There are mentioned the different directions of the world.
The story is in the past simple tense and some phrases are repeated several times so that they would be easily remembered by the audience:

“Shouted the mouse”
“The wind blew and blew”
“…went up in the air … and landed on…”

There are also examples of irregular verbs: blow – blew, come – came, burst – burst, say – said
These verbs can be seen both in their first form (in the direct speech and in their second form in the indirect speech).
The students found this story very simiral to a Bulgarian one – the similarity is in the repetition of all items and in adding each time a new one.
Most students also made some illustrations at home claiming that it would be better to use them while telling the story to their students during their teaching practice. Other students chose to tell the story to their students and to leave them to make illustrations.

7. Conclusion

“Listening to stories allows the teacher to introduce or revise new vocabulary and sentence structures by exposing students to language in varied memorable and familiar contexts, which will enrich their thinking and gradually enter their own speech”
(Ellis, G. and Brewster, 1991: p.2)
So stories provide fruitful ground for discussions, for creative writing, for dramatization, for drawing.
Stories are motivating and fun and can help develop positive attitudes towards the foreign language and language learning.
(Ellis, G. and Brewster, 1991: p.2)

This can be said both for student – teachers and for their pupils.
Using stories in Practical English Language lessons with student-teachers in the Primary School enriches them as people and as professionals as well.


Cuddon, J. A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Penguin, 1991
Eccleshare, J. Five-minute Stories. Scholastic Ltd., 1995
Ellis, G., J. Brewster, The Story-telling Handbook for Primary Teachers, Penguin, 1991
Solloway, E. Flights of Fancy. Practical English Teaching, Dec. 1993