E-Newsletter, Issue 24 (July – August 2016)

In the current issue

  • Editors’ Corner (p.5)
  • Using the English classroom for developing soft skills in children (Syana Harizanova) (p.7)
  • Implementation of portfolio and self-assessment in EFL writing courses (Marina Samalieva) (p.15)
  • Technical translation in second language acquisition (Violeta Karastateva) (p.26)
  • Structuring paragraphs in scientific writing (English for Medical Purposes) (Ilina Doykova) (p.50)
  • Input as a factor in attainment of implicit and explicit knowledge and proficiency in EFL (Mariana Gotseva) (p.58)
  • ETools, eTwinning and Erasmus +: Using various tools in class inspired by eTwinning projects (Maya Kyulevchieva) (p.75)
  • Teaching English: the case of primary teachers in Italy (Carmelina Maurizio) (p.78)
  • To motivate learners, you need motivated teachers (Zarina Markova and Irina Ivanova) (p.86)
  • Save the date (p.96)
  • Writing for the BETA E-Newsletter (p.97)
  • Notes for Contributors (p.98)

Click on the image to download this open access issue
ISSN 1314-6874
Editors: Zarina Markova (main editor of the current issue) and Sylvia Velikova (associate editor)

A project in need is a project indeed (effective remedy for dynamic students)

Written by Maria Ivanova – English teacher,
“Hristo Botev” Primary school, Plovdiv

What is a project and how to use it effectively with young learners.  Some approved approaches and useful ideas for a dynamic classroom. Ideas to exchange? Come and share!

This talk is about projects. I will explain what a project work is, what benefits it brings and how it can be introduced and used into the classroom. The ideas are based on my classroom experience and on Tom Hutchinson’s booklet – “Introduction to project work.” (OUP).

  1. What is a project?

The best way to answer the question is to show examples of my own students’ projects. Photos of different projects, presented by their auhtors and some real projects are shown. A short introductory discussion is made.(See some of the attached pictures)

  • One of the great benefits of the project work is its adaptability. It can be adapted according to the students’ level. It can be pictures or simple words for the lower levels (2nd graders) or more complicated texts for more advanced students.
  • You can do projects on almost any topic. They can be factual or fantastic. This is how projects can help Ss to develop the full range of heir capabilities.
  • Projects are often done in a poster format, but Ss can also use their imagination to experiment with the form.(Ex. The  fashion project with a  shape of a woman, puppet projects)
  • It can be popular or imaginative

Common characteristics of the projects

  • Hard work –Each project is the result of lot of hard work. The authors of the projects have found information about their topics, collected or drawn pictures, written down their ideas and then put all the parts together to form a coherent presentation.
  • Creative –the projects are very creative in terms of both content and language. Each project is a unique piece of communication, created by the project writers themselves.
  • Personal – Ss write about aspects of their own lives and so they invest a lot of themselves in their project.
  • Adaptable- The project work is highly adaptable methodology. It can be used in every level and with all ages. In the handout 1-p.2 there are ideas about how the topics of “Families”, “Food”, “Space” might be used.

The success of a project depends on many factors including the age, level and interests of the learners, the resources available, the limit of time and space.
What is a project?
A project is an extended piece of work on a particular topic where the content and the presentation are determined principally by the learner. The teacher or the textbook provides the topic, but the project writers themselves decide what they write and how they present it. In short, the learner-centered characteristic of the project work is vital. Being quite egocentric Ss enjoy project work very much. On the other hand if a project work is made as a group work it can stimulate cooperation and friendship.
Other benefits of the project work are:

  • Students can experiment with the language as something real, not as something that only appears in books. Which means that project work captures better than any other activity the principle elements of the communicative approach. It contains:
  • a concern of motivation (how the learners relate to the task.);
  • a concern for relevance (how the learners relate to the language);
  • a concern for educational values (how the language curriculum relates to the general educational development o the learner).

Now let’s look at these three points in a bit more detail:
1. Motivation
Positive motivation is the key to successful language learning and project work is particularly useful as a means of generating this. Why? Because:

  • It is very personal. The Ss write about their own interests-their families, towns, dreams, fantasies.
  • Learning through doing- It’s a very active medium. Ss don’t have just to receive and produce words. They have to be active.
  • Sense of achievment – There is feedback from the Ss as they realize what they can do with the English they have learned.

2. Relevance – Learner become real language users. They realize that English can be used to talk about their own world.

  • Intergation of language with other skills – Project work helps to integrate the foreign language into the network of the learner’s own communicative competence. It creates connection between the foreign language and the learner’s own world.
  • Real needs of language learners- The project work helps to make the language more relevant to learners’ actual needs. It enables Ss to rehearse the language and factual knowledge that will be of most value to them as language users.
  • Language and culture – The purpose of learning a foreign language is to make the communication between two cultures possible. English, as an international language, should not be just for talking about the ways of the English speaking world. It should be a means of telling the world about your own culture. With project work the language acts as a bridge enabling two cultures to communicate with each other. (See handout 1-p.2).

3. Educational values

  • Independent investigation – The learners have to do their own investigations. That’s why they have to be initiative, independent, imaginative, self-disciplined and cooperative, which really develops their research skills.
  • Cross-curricular studies – Maths, science, music, art. The project work integrates learner’s own world, his/her communicative skills and other realms of knowledge. (See  handout 1- p.2)

For every benefit there’s a price to be paid. Here are some of
the project work worries.

  • Noise – It’s a natural part of any productive activity.
  • Time – It’s time consuming that’s why it is an excellent homework.  It can be done outside the class, which helps students to cooperate and gives them opportunities for reach learning experiences.  I give the students the choice to group each other and then to present their “co-production” (See handout 2).
  • Use of L1 (the mother tongue) – It helps to express them better. It’s their natural working environment. It, on the other hand, provides them with realistic translation work and writing practice.
  • Different levels – The students’ levels are different. Project work, being quite adaptable, can be used from absolute beginner to advanced and with all ages. Evaluation should be adaptable too.


The key to a successful project is the preparation.
What everyone needs is:

  • Scissors/rulers/glue/large sheets of paper or card
  • A dictionary/ a grammar book/ an atlas
  • A stock of magazines, maps, leaflets
  • A start with concrete, small scale activities
  • Preparational project discussion
  • Project at the end of a chapter/unit
  • Presentation ( as a poster/book)

Be prepared:

  • Not just the language – A language is only a  part of the total project
  • Not just the mistakes


There was a very nice discussion at the end of the seminar. The participants shared their own experience and their students’ projects performances. Useful ideas were exchanged.


The lighter side: A look at humour in the language classroom

Written by: Roger House [toc class=”toc-right”]
Humour doesn’t always have to be culturally bound: it can be universal and uniting.
This presentation looked at humour from the perspective of both the language teacher and the language learner and at ways in which we can all ‘lighten up’ and enjoy ourselves a little more in the classroom.
It began with a joke.

The joke book joke.

A man spends his first day in prison and is befriended by one of the long term prisoners. During lunch in the prison canteen one of the other prisoners stands up and shouts, “ Ninety- three”. At which point there is hysterical laughter all around the canteen.
Later that day, while exercising in the yard, another prisoner shouts, “ Forty-five”, and all the prisoners fall about laughing.
“What’s going on ?” asks the man to his new friend.
“Well, you see,” says the long term prisoner, ”there is only one joke book in the prison library and we have all been here so long that we have learnt all the jokes by heart. So, instead of telling the whole joke we just shout out the number – it’s easier.”
Over the next few months the man learns all the jokes in the joke book by heart so that he is able to join in the fun. Eventually, he feels he is ready to call out his favourite joke, so at lunch in the canteen he stands up and shouts, “Sixty-seven.”
Silence.
“What went wrong ?” he asks his friend.
“Well,” he sighed, “ I’m afraid it’s the way you tell it.”

I found this joke in Peter Medgyes’ book ‘Laughing Matters’ ( Cambridge University Press  2002 ) and it serves to illustrate that telling jokes in itself does not necessarily constitute humour in language teaching. Firstly, for a number of reasons, your students may not get the joke, and secondly, a good joke has to be told well and not all of us feel able to do this. Most importantly for us as language teachers, however, is the fact that telling a joke is very teller, or rather, teacher centred and our students are merely listeners, not participants.
So here are some suggestions for getting our students more involved in the process of creating humour in the classroom.

“That’s just the name of the shop.”

Some years ago, when I was teaching at a language school in the UK, I was given a book entitled ‘Situational English’ or ‘Situational Dialogues’, I can’t remember the title exactly, to use with my students for fluency practice. The book consisted of a series of role play scenarios along the lines of  ‘At the Railway Station’, ‘In the Supermarket’, ‘At the Post Office’ etc.
The following activity is my attempt to enliven the material based on a joke by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
Give out the following dialogue to your students:-

Assistant:  “ How can I help you, sir?”
Man:  “I’d like these two pairs of trousers cleaned, please.”
Assistant:  “Certainly, sir. Would you also like them pressed?”
Man:  “Yes please. When will they be ready?”
Assistant:  “ In about two weeks.”
Man:  “ Two weeks !  But it says…………………………..”
Assistant:  “Yes sir, I know, but……………………………”

Elicit from the class what type of shop the dialogue takes place in ( a dry cleaner’s ) and what may go in the spaces. Establish the idea that the customer is making a complaint.
Divide your class into pairs and ask them to think of a shop and give a name to it. The name of the shop must include an adjective to describe the product or services it is offering.
eg.   Reliable Computers,  Tasty Sandwiches,  Same Day Photographs,  High Quality Shoes  etc.
This is a good opportunity to practise / revise suitable adjectives. Encourage them to use their imagination. Now ask each pair to prepare a dialogue similar to the one above in which the customer makes a complaint related to the name of the shop.
eg. the computer is not reliable, the sandwiches are not tasty etc.
When they have finished, give each pair the following lines on a slip of paper to add to their dialogues:-

Customer:  “But it says …( name of shop )…. on the sign outside.”
Assistant:   “Yes sir, I know, but I’m afraid that’s just the name of the shop.”

If necessary, they can change what they have prepared to fit these lines in.
Get the students to act out their dialogues in class so they can all share the joke.
I have found that students can be quite imaginative and humorous with their dialogues, especially when they incorporate the punch line at the end.
The original is as follows:-

Assistant:  “ How can I help you, sir?”
Man:  “I’d like these two pairs of trousers cleaned, please.”
Assistant:  “Certainly, sir. Would you also like them pressed?”
Man:  “Yes please. When will they be ready?”
Assistant:  “ In about two weeks.”
Man:  “ Two weeks !  But it says ‘24 Hour Cleaners’ on the sign outside.”
Assistant:  “Yes sir, I know, but I’m afraid that’s just the name of the shop.”


Alternative titles

Not all students, and  this especially applies to teenagers, find the course book they are using very inspiring. This is not necessarily the fault of the writers or publishers but it does give us the opportunity for a little useful fun in our teaching.
Make a list of course book titles from publishers’ catalogues or even give the students the catalogues themselves if you have enough and want to use some authentic material.
Elicit from students the words or phrases with positive connotations used in the titles. All course books have titles associated with success, progress and dynamism ( Reward, Get Ahead, Move On etc.) and this can be effectively exploited.
Get students to work in small groups to make alternative titles for the course books using opposites or words and phrases with negative connotations. This can be used as a means of extending their vocabulary as well as utilising their creativity. They can write out their alternative titles and you could display them as a wall poster. Here are some of my samples:-
‘Failure At First Certificate’,   ‘Losers’,   ‘Switch Off’,   ‘Punishment’,   ‘Dead End’,  ‘Unnatural English’,  ‘Going Backwards’
The same thing can be done using only their current course book as a source and changing the titles of the units instead. Most recent course books follow a similar pattern of topic related titles for each unit and the result could be something like this:-
Unit 1  Going Places    –    Going Nowhere
Unit 2  People Around me    –    People I Don’t Want To Know
Unit 3  The World Of Work    –  The World Of Unemployment
Unit 4  Entertainment    –    Boredom
Unit 5  The Environment    –  Destroying The Planet
The scope for amusement is quite large and for de-motivated learners the activity can prove to be cathartic.

Alternative texts.

This is really an extension of the above activity using the short texts often found in course books as samples or models for language work. To give you an idea I have used the following text from ‘New Headway Intermediate’ ( Oxford University Press  2003). Obviously, present simple and adverbs of frequency as well as a contrast with the present continuous are the main teaching aims here.

Sidney Fisk, 45
Sidney Fisk is a lawyer. He’s paid very well, but he usually has to work long hours. He works for an international company in Dallas, Texas, so he travels a lot in his job. At the moment he’s working in Mexico, and next week he’s travelling to France


This is all very nice for Sidney Fisk but I don’t think it really engages our students that much. Asking them to write about their own lives, as the course book does, will probably induce yawns
or the complaint that they don’t know what to say. Rewriting the text with Sidney Fisk as a criminal, on the other hand, may produce more invention and hopefully more humour. Other roles Sidney Fisk may given are:- a pet dog or other animal, the president of another planet, a rock star or even God ( although you may need to be careful with this ! ). The idea of using less conventional characters for language work I found in an old publication from Oxford University Press called ‘Streamline English’ and it contained a great deal of incidental humour as a result.
Other short texts, especially descriptive ones, can be rewritten in a similar way. Thus ‘My Ideal Holiday’ becomes ‘My Holiday From Hell’ or ‘How I Spend My Free Time’ becomes ‘Why I Enjoy Doing Nothing’ or ‘My Favourite Place’ becomes ‘Reasons You Should Never Go To Plovdiv’. The possibilities are almost endless and if you find yourself short of  inspiration, get your students to come up with some suggestions; I’m sure they’ll have some.

A letter of application.

Writing tasks tend to be regarded with far too much seriousness by students and teachers alike. It may be that you will find possibilities for humour in even the most mundane of exam type tasks. Take the letter of application, for example. Consider asking students whether they actually want the job or summer camp organiser role being advertised. If not, and this will usually be the case, get them to write a letter to avoid any possibility of  ever getting the job. This example is in response to an advert for a journalist.

I am writing in response to your advertisement in yesterday’s ‘Daily Planet’ for a part-time journalist.
As you can see from my CV I have absolutely no interest in journalism and no previous experience whatsoever. I don’t even read newspapers.
As regards academic qualifications, I was thrown out of school at 15 having passed none of my exams. I can’t speak any foreign languages and, in fact, I can barely speak my own mother tongue ( someone else wrote this letter for me ).
I believe I am not the right person for this job because I am lazy and incompetent. I hope to be rejected in the near future.
I look forward to never hearing  from


Although this may seem facetious, useful language work is going on and students can use their joke letters a model for the real one. They just have to rewrite it seriously. It can also be an entertaining exercise to work out which other writing tasks can be dealt with in the same way.

If my neighbours were zombies.

I once tried to demonstrate to teachers on a training course an effective way of eliciting the hypothetical meaning of the second conditional by using an example of neighbours who were having a party and neighbours who were very quiet. The target sentences were ‘If they made a noise, I would ……’ and  ‘If they make a noise, I’ll………’. Puzzled, one of the trainee teachers asked, “Yes, but what if my neighbours are zombies?”  This is a good idea and can be done as a kind of ‘consequences’ game in the class. Divide the class into small groups of four or five students. Give each group a piece of A4 paper and tell them to write at the top ‘If my neighbours were zombies…..’ The first student completes the sentence and then passes it on to the next student who begins a second sentence following on from the first and beginning with ‘If..’
eg   If my neighbours were zombies, I would move to another town
If I moved to another town, I wouldn’t be worried about zombies
If I wasn’t worried about zombies………..etc.
When every student in each group has written a sentence, they exchange their pieces of paper with another group. Alternatively, you could put them up around the classroom for another class to read.
Absurd situations like this work well with younger learners and activate a sense of the surreal that is conducive to learning.
Grammar activities are, of course, focused on getting the correct answer but there is humorous potential in deliberately making mistakes. Here is a grammar practice activity from ‘New Headway Intermediate’ again.
Match a line in A with a line in B and a line in C.
[threecol_one]
A
1. If you go to Paris,
2. If we can afford it,
3. If I don’t hear from you today,
4. If the music is too loud,
5. If we don’t leave soon,
6. If there’s nothing interesting in the window,
7. If she has to work late, the Eiffel Tower
8. If Daniel rings
[/threecol_one]
[threecol_one]
B
we’ll be late for school.
go inside the shop.
tell him I never want to see him again.
we’ll buy a new car soon.
she’ll phone you from the office.
you can turn down the radio.
you must go to the top of
I’ll phone you tomorrow
[/threecol_one]
[threecol_one_last]
C
She might not be home until 9.00
The views are fantastic.
The one we have now is very unreliable.
It’ll be the second time this week.
He really hurt my feelings.
I need to talk to you about something.
I don’t mind.
You might find something you like
[/threecol_one_last]
Consider making the wrong matchings in this exercise.
eg    If the music is too loud, go inside the shop. The views are fantastic
There is still some sort of strange sense to it and it can be funny. Try some yourself and then get your students to do some. These they can give to another class to either correct or improve.

Errors and language misuse.

Give students these three vocabulary items:- underestimate, life-long, neither. Ask them to use their dictionaries to write their own sample sentences illustrating how these words are used.
Now give them the following three sentences on the board or on a worksheet:-

“It’s not that we underestimated them; it’s just that they were better than we thought.”
“How long have you had this life-long ambition ?”
“They have to concentrate, not only when they have the ball or when their opponents have the ball but also when neither of them have the ball.”

Ask students to consider what is wrong in these sentences. What is being focused on here is the misuse of the language by it’s native speakers resulting in comic or absurd effect. Students can then be invited to misuse the words in a similar way and create their own comic sentences. These can then be given to other students to read and comment on. The activity can be done with any number of vocabulary items and is an entertaining way to revise or recycle vocabulary. Sports commentators are a rich source of this kind of  tortured language as are poorly translated public notices. I have taken my examples from the satirical magazine ‘Private Eye’ but you can find a plethora of them on the internet. Students can either correct them, which is not so amusing, or write their own, which can be fun.
Learners’ own mistakes are also a source of humour, although this has to be treated with a great deal of sensitivity as you don’t want to alienate your students. You could collect some of their more amusing errors over the course of a term or academic year and present them on a worksheet or in a booklet. Contributions must remain anonymous, however. Here is one of my favourites, which I have been using for several years now. It was written as the introduction to an essay which followed on from a class discussion on women’s role in modern society. See if you can work out what was actually intended.

“In nowadays society women still find it difficult to penetrate in the management position.”

Humour can be a very effective teaching tool if handled right. However, always make sure that your students understand that you are laughing with them, not at them.

How to use translation in the language classroom

Written by: Rossen Stoitchkov, “St. Kliment Ohridski” University of Sofia
Department of Language Teaching and International Students
The paper sets out to explore the hidden potential of translation in teaching monolingual students. It attempts to show that translation in the language classroom can be used as a practical activity, which may indeed be rewarding for the teacher and stimulating for the students. Carefully designed translation activities involve learners in a metalinguistic task, which requires attention to the structural features of language thus having their awareness raised as to the specific way an idea (even the commonest one) is rendered in L1 and L2 (no distinction is made between foreign and second language). It is assumed that an ability (which is also a skill) to look at the stream of speech “with the mind’s eye” is crucial to language learning and the paper explores the means for teaching and acquisition of such a skill through translation classroom activities. The paper also seeks to recast transfer and interference as a helpful learner strategy rather than a negative L1 influence.
The paper tries to rid translation of a too close an association with the Grammar Translation Method (GTM), which has fallen into academic disrepute and has given translation a bad name among language professionals. As a result many language teachers often banish translation from their classrooms as an “evil” of the past, a reminder of teaching methodologies found to be inadequate.
Since the beginning of the 1970s, with the advent of communicative teaching and the influx of Direct Method practitioners to the teaching world, translation has been generally out of fashion within the language teaching community. Yet, for thousands of years this ancient craft had been right at the heart of language learning. Many of the mediaeval universities developed out of what were originally schools of translation.
Today translation is still largely ignored as a valid activity for language practice and improvement. The neglect seems to be partly because of the continual misuse of translation within the classroom. Even where it is still retained, it tends to be used not for language teaching, but for testing. The main reason for this might be that over the centuries translation had gradually become fossilized. It became less and less associated with the excitement of discovery learning, more and more with the boredom of book learning. What should have been a challenging activity had turned into a pointless routine exercise, a chore.
Due to the negative attitude towards GTM, which, for the past three decades has been regarded with mistrust, grammar and translation are tainted by association, making many teachers still feel ill at ease with translation. Although GTM is unsatisfactory for all sorts of reasons, using translation activities doesn’t have to mean using that kind of method. There is no reason why translation should not play a part in a modern approach. It has been my experience that adult learners in particular, being cognitively oriented, value translation and benefit from a mixed approach that contains elements of the communicative approach and more traditional methods, and not from an approach, which is communicative only.
It will be interesting to note that Richards and Rodgers (1986) state, “in modified form it [GTM] continues to be widely used in some parts of the world today and is still widely practiced”, referring to the late 1980s. It appears that translation as a language teaching technique has been making a comeback in Europe, as evidenced by publications such as some of the articles in Malmkjar, 1998, e.g. Klein Braley & Franklin, Newson, Stibbard. In fact, Anderman (1998:45) reports that in a survey of the teaching of translation at British universities, nineteen out of the twenty-one institutions which responded to the questionnaire indicated that translation was taught “as a way of improving students’ linguistic proficiency” (Sewell, 1996: 137). It turns out that language learning and translation studies are much more closely related than scholars in both fields seem to believe. However, there is much more to be done in fostering closer interaction between these two fields.
It goes without saying that translation works best with monolingual classes taught by a non-native speaker teacher. In the Bulgarian context, the majority of language teachers are non-native speakers of the target language with few exceptions: usually Peace Corps volunteers teaching in state schools and the occasional native speaker employed by a private language school. Therefore, contrastive analysis and translation have locally become part of every successful methodology. Native speaker teachers are often frowned upon for not being able to explain language points in the students’ L1 and compare structures causing confusion in the learners. Of course, it is easy to think of convincing reasons why native speakers of English have a lot of advantages as language teachers. Nevertheless, they have never thought about and struggled with the language the way a non-native teacher has. Many non-native speakers have a sophisticated knowledge of L2, a kind of knowledge which native speakers can only develop with special training.
It is often the case that non-native speaker teachers have a better idea than many native speaker teachers of how L2 works. Moreover, all non-native speaker teachers are language learners themselves. They have experienced themselves the difficulties their students have, which puts them in a very good position to understand those difficulties. Also, many errors have their causes in the L1. Knowledge of the L1 is therefore a very important tool for the teacher as he or she is in a position to know which aspects of the language to concentrate on.
Asking students to compare and contrast L2 and L1 is not a new idea. Translation-based foreign language (FL) courses of the past embodied this approach, then translation was abandoned almost completely when “English-only” methods came into vogue. The situation today is changing and it is no longer one of such extremes. Most language professionals would acknowledge that some translation for contrastive purposes can be useful in the language classroom. These apparently opposing situations seem likely to be reconciled.
Weschler (1997) shows that by combining the best of the “grammar-translation” method with the best of “communicative” methods, a new, more powerful hybrid can emerge in which the focus is more on the negotiated meaning of the message than its sterile form. He calls his coinage “The Functional-Translation Method” (FTM). Its goal is to allow students to learn the useful English they want to learn as efficiently and enjoyably as possible. This entails taking advantage of the knowledge they already possess in their L1 as well as their innate, higher-order cognitive skills.
The following chart, taken from Weschler’s article can illustrate the differences between the traditional GTM and the newly coined FTM. The differences concern one particular area: the type of language being  translated.

The Type of Language
Traditional Grammar-Translation Proposed Functional-Translation
  1. Word-for-word level
  2. Referential meaning
  3. Literary, narrative or technical written text
  4. Obsolete, stiff and formal language
  5. Irrelevant to students’ needs and interests
  6. Grammar (i.e. Form)
  7. Many infrequent, useless words
  8. Too complex and difficult
  9. Deductive rule-driven
  10. Out-of-context (discrete and indigestible)
  11. Bad-test driven
  12. Language no native-speaker would say
  13. Lexis of formal composition
  1. Chunked phrase/idea level
  2. Social-functional meaning
  3. Spoken conversational patterns and dialogues
  4. Current, colloquial, idiomatic language
  5. Relevant to students’ needs and interests
  6. Function (i.e. Meaning)
  7. Fewer frequent, useful phrases
  8. Simple and direct
  9. Inductive, discovery-driven
  10. In-context (Embedded and memorizable)
  11. Necessary-language driven
  12. Correct, natural language
  13. Lexis of conversational management

As the communicative movement has begun to run short of ideas, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional practices such as translation. It is my contention that translation could be renovated and made communicative. Translation does not have to be a lone, pointless struggle between student and text. Many other approaches are possible. It can be introduced purposefully and imaginatively into the language learning programme. If we could shift the emphasis from learning translation as a set of discrete skills (although it may have its own merits) to using translation as a resource for the promotion of language learning, we might be able to reinterpret and humanize it, using it to our advantage as a powerful tool for developing language awareness.
I believe translation deserves its place for the following reasons:

  • It helps learners understand the influence of L1 on L2 and correct errors of misuse of particular words or structures, allowing them to think comparatively;
  • Because translation involves contrast, it enables us to explore the potential of both languages – their strengths and weaknesses;
  • It forces learners to think carefully about meaning, not just to mechanically manipulate forms;
  • It encourages students to take risks rather than avoid them;
  • Outside the classroom translation is going on all the time. Why not inside the classroom?
  • Translation develops three qualities, which are essential to language learning: accuracy, clarity and flexibility, training the learner to search for the most appropriate words to convey what is meant.
  • It invites speculation and discussion;
  • Translation activities develop learners’ metalinguistic awareness.

I will dwell on this last reason, justifying the place of translation in the FL classroom, as I consider it to be vitally important. Metalinguistic awareness may be defined as “an awareness of the underlying linguistic nature of language use”. (Byalistok, 147) It allows the individual to step back from the comprehension or production of an utterance in order to consider the linguistic form and structure underlying the meaning of the utterance. Cazden (1976) defines the construct as “the ability to make language forms opaque and attend to them in and for themselves” (p.603). A metalinguistic task, in the most general sense, is one which requires the individual to think about the linguistic nature of the message: to attend to and reflect on the structural features of language. Tunmer and Herriman (1984) note that:
To be metalinguistically aware is to begin to appreciate that the stream of speech, beginning with the acoustic signal and ending with the speaker’s intended meaning, can be looked at with the mind’s eye and taken apart. (1984:12)
Bialystok and Ryan (1985) treat metalinguistic awareness not as a unique ability, but as the ability to successfully approach and solve certain types of problems. In this sense, it is both an awareness and a skill: the problem is metalinguistic and the skill is recognizing the nature and demands of the problem.
The rejection of the use of translation FL classroom seems to be based on a limited, partial understanding. As a result, application of translation has failed without even trying to exploit its full communicative potential. Not only was translation over-used; it was used inefficiently, too. Uninteresting dull texts were set, and the exercise was not prepared; it was mostly a written exercise; there was heavy reliance on bilingual dictionaries, and was not integrated with other types of activities.
I am convinced, however, that translation from L1 into L2, can be streamlined, so that under given conditions it can be fitted in with the latest approaches to foreign language teaching. Translation can be a worthwhile exercise under the following conditions:

  • Translation should not be used where it does not belong;
  • It should not be used excessively or to the exclusion of other types of work;
  • A translation exercise should always be thoroughly prepared;
  • Teachers should always know why they are using a translation activity and what they expect students to get out of it;
  • Proper attention should be paid to integrate it with other activities;
  • Measures should be taken to ensure that the exercise is interesting and motivating, both in the oral and the written mode.

Translation belongs in the curriculum when:

  • it is an end in itself;
  • adult students are concerned, whose previous learning habits predispose them towards conscious learning;
  • formal correctness is considered important;
  • students take an active interest in the formal aspects of the foreign language;
  • the teacher speaks the same native language as his or her students.

The real usefulness of translation in the FL classroom lies in exploiting it in order to compare grammar, vocabulary, word order and other language points in L2 and L1. The areas where difficulties occur range from relatively small points such as “false friends”, through sizeable areas such as tense systems, to more complex fields such as contrastive rhetoric. However, in all cases, if students are aware of the differences, interference is likely to be reduced. It may be appropriate at this point to draw on Perkins’ observations:

In order to develop in the students a linguistic awareness of contrast between L1 and L2 grammatical structures, and thus counteract interlingual interference, the teacher can quite legitimately get students to translate L1 sentences designed to pinpoint and clarify structures and patterns the student still has not assimilated.
(Perkins, 1985)

Newmark also gives a more specific description of the kind of FL translation activities he envisages:

In the elementary stages, translation from L1 to L2 may be useful as a form of control and consolidation of basic grammar and vocabulary. This form of control should be regular but sparing, should not usually introduce new L2 items and must not dominate the teaching. In the middle stages, translation from L2 to L1 of words and clauses may be useful in dealing with errors; therefore interference, interlanguage or unconscious translationese can be illuminated by back-translation, as an aid in the production of creative discourse or texts.
(Newmark, 1991)

In other words, after some work on contrastive analysis – comparing L2 and L1 – the actual practice of problem areas can also involve some translation from time to time. In this sense, translation also becomes useful as a means of consolidating and controlling (not necessarily testing) performance in those areas where interference may occur.
Many grammar points lend themselves to some form of contrastive analysis. An ideal time to make such a comparison might be when grammar points are reviewed. After focusing on an area of grammar, the students can be asked to translate a series of model sentences from L2 into L1 and see what patterns emerge. Students should provide a natural – not a “forced” – translation in their own language and then be encouraged to come to some conclusions about how their language compares with L2.
Once differences and similarities between the two languages have been noted, further practice is to be encouraged. This could be in the form of a traditional grammar exercise, a speaking task where the grammar point is likely to be used, a piece of writing where such language forms will presumably arise, and/or a translation. The translation exercise can take the form of a few sentences to be translated into the student’s L1, or L2 sentences to translate into L1 and then translate back into L2, perhaps with a time lapse in between. However, a short passage is usually much more stimulating and practical rather than a list of sentences with little context.
In vocabulary practice, translation comes into its own in an exercise to check that some fairly common “false friends” are known. Spotting the deceptive cognates in a number of sentences might be the first stage, discussing which are possible traps for the languages in question could be the second step. Then, after the meanings have been made clear, a suitable translation may be put forward.
For speakers of some languages cognates are an enormously valuable resource. There are huge areas of vocabulary which are much easier to learn because of the similarities between L1 and L2. It is worth making students aware of and exploit those cognates. Beginners should be introduced to as many cognates as possible, which is good for helping them grow confident. False cognates should not be ignored as they can cause a lot of problems of mistranslation. What is more, students should be encouraged to guess cognates. At the same time, they should be given guidance about the sorts of words which are likely to be “true friends”. They should be taught to always check in a dictionary to see whether a word really is a true friend before using it. Last but not least, students should be encouraged to pay attention to pronunciation. This can be a considerable problem, particularly when L1 has borrowed a word from L2.
As I already mentioned above, a translation exercise has to be well-prepared. Preparation begins by selecting an appropriate text, which can be a story from a newspaper or any other source. The text should be short, so that the students are able to remember it after reading or listening to it once. The prime objective is not to learn or teach new words, but to consolidate vocabulary and to clarify sense relations between words in meaningful contexts, and also to draw attention to cross-linguistic problems. Therefore, ideally the text should not contain unfamiliar vocabulary. However, it would be silly not to use an excellent text because it contains an unfamiliar item. If such an item is of key importance within the text, it can be presented and practiced in advance. The teacher should translate the text beforehand, noting the points where difficulties might be expected, and studying all the possible variations in grammar, lexis, and style that his or her students are likely to offer.
Preparation should be particularly careful on the lexical side; the teacher should check the meanings of synonyms, record the collocational properties of individual items, and study the relevant semantic fields. Such meticulous preparations may appear to be too exacting, but I am convinced that most teachers prefer devoting extra time to preparation, rather than facing a situation where they have to deal with vocabulary problems on an ad hoc basis, which frequently happens during the course of a role-play exercise, or when a group discussion develops and takes unexpected turns.
Speaking from experience, I have found that a translation exercise is best introduced by a short discussion focusing on the same topic as the text. If the text is about a controversial subject, the arguments for and against it can be discussed. This way, much of the vocabulary that will be needed in translating the text will have been reactivated. This is an important consideration, since if students have not recently been practicing some of the lexical items from the text, they might have slipped from their active lexical repertoire.
Integration with other activities can take various forms. A translation exercise can be preceded by grammatical and lexical exercises to provide additional practice on certain points, and also to prepare the translation exercise. Alternatively, the translation exercise can be used as a starting point for further oral practice. Translation can also be integrated with teaching functions in the foreign language. For instance, the function of warning can be practiced in various communicative oral exercises, and then complemented with the more formal types of warning based on oral translation of written texts.
Translation should not be a dull exercise. The text to be translated must be interesting and relevant to the needs of the students. Interest can be created by applying the standard procedures of communicative teaching. An information gap can be created if only one student has the text, and invites comments after he or she has translated it for the class. Alternatively, if the text is a bit long, a selected student sums it up to the class and then the text is handed out to all of the students and a full translation is worked out jointly, making use of questions and comments from the whole class. Translation can be done as pair work, followed by a discussion as a class. To sum up, as Edge points out, there is no reason why “a translation class should not benefit from a communicative and interactive approach.” (Edge, 1986:121)
Now I would like to move on to describing some effective translation activities I have been using in my classes with adult learners of English. What I often do is read out a short story in Bulgarian and then ask a student to provide a summary of the story in English. Other students are asked to add details or offer alternative translations. Finally, a student is called upon to reproduce the complete story. The discussion of alternative translations always generates lively interest.
I have also tried out another version of the activity with longer texts containing more sophisticated vocabulary. I read out the text in Bulgarian and then ask questions in English. Students are asked to sum up or translate the story, either in pairs or as a class.
Sometimes I hand out the text to the students and ask them to underline the words that they think could be omitted, simplified, or paraphrased in translation. Then I get them to work out a simplified translation and subsequently to refine it searching for more precise equivalents for the items, which have been bypassed. Students are usually assigned homework to translate the same text using a bilingual dictionary. What is puzzling is the fact that in many cases the original simplified translation turns out to be the best one. This type of exercise demonstrates how over-reliance on the dictionary can be dangerous as well as the pitfalls of too close a translation.
Correcting wrong translation has turned out to be an intriguing activity. The teacher prepares some incorrect word for word translations and the students discuss them and correct them. This can be done with common phrases [e.g. *What hour is it?* or *Have you fire?*] , or, at higher levels the activity can focus on a specific aspect of grammar, for example, tense and time [e.g. *I live here since 2 years.*]. This sort of activity gets students to focus intensively on problematic areas and helps to make clear to them the dangers of word for word translation.
Another motivating type of translation exercise which my students enjoy is consolidation translation. This kind of exercise gives learners further practice in an area of grammar or vocabulary or a function they have been studying recently. The teacher writes a text in L1 whose translation into English includes a number of examples of one particular area of difficulty. This kind of translation is done most frequently from L1 to L2. Its purpose is to give learners practice in producing a particular area of L2, which is often a pattern, or a chunked phrase, not just in understanding it [e.g. Did you succeed in convincing your father that you were telling him the truth?].
I often ask students to compare different versions of a translation. Usually they are given three different versions of a text. The teacher designs the three translations so that each of them has different strengths and weaknesses. Students discuss different aspects of the text and finally they are asked to write in pairs or groups a new “ideal” translation. An activity like this should encourage students to think about aspects of context and to pay attention to the “social” meaning of the words and phrases which they select. This activity can be done either from L2 to L1 or the other way round.
What is a still more exciting activity is comparing different versions written by the students. The teacher prepares two short texts for translation from L2 into L1: text A and text B. The students work in pairs. In each pair, one student gets text A and the other text B. They do not show each other their texts. Individually, each student writes a quick translation of their text into L1. In each pair, the students swap the translations that they have written. They do not give each other the original texts A and B. Individually, each student writes a quick translation of the L1 text, which they now have, into L2. At this point each student has translated into L2 the text that their partner translated from L2. In each pair, the students now show each other the original texts A and B. They compare their translations and discuss the differences between the two L2 versions of each text. This activity is a good way of raising students’ awareness of the skills of translation and the differences between their own language and the target language. The final discussion may have to take place in L1.
Lost in translation is really an exhilarating activity. Students form a circle of up to 10 seated students. All students receive a number from 1 to 10. Each even numbered student receives a different English sentence written across the top of a piece of paper. Odd numbered students receive one of the same English sentences translated into L1, also written on the top of a piece of paper. Students then proceed to translate the main idea of the sentence and write their translation below the original sentence. Students then fold the paper over concealing the original sentence, only showing their translated version of the sentence. Students then each pass their papers in a clockwise fashion, repeating the same procedure of folding to conceal the sentence that a student has read to write his translated sentence. When a piece of paper has completed the circle the activity stops. Now students examine what meaning has been lost in the translation of the sentences. This helps students not only to improve their vocabulary, which is crucial for accessing meaning, but it also allows them to participate in a consciousness raising exercise concerning grammatical and contextual structures in L1 and L2.
Students seem to be very involved when doing bilingual dialogues. This technique employs pairing students off. One receives a native language version of the same dialogue. Then both students attempt to translate it. Later, the two students compare results and act out the English dialogue. Again, this is another activity which serves as a consciousness raiser in comparing students’ L1 and L2. Students will generally be able to access their L1 and use it to learn new vocabulary by translating. This activity is also useful for pointing out language redundancy. Finally, the acting out of the English dialogue offers the students production practice, which is vital for improving their speaking skills.
Role-plays with L1 brainstorming have also proved to be very inspiring and effective. This is a technique where a set of English discussion phrases are usually pre-taught and practiced. Students break into brainstorming groups to develop strategies for their later discussion with an opposing group. They may use L1 for their brainstorming. They may ask the teacher for help after they have consulted a bilingual dictionary, attempting to formulate expressions themselves. The teacher should point out some distinctions in meaning or formality for some words to be used in the discussion. Students may also be given a list of possible strategies/positions they may use in later discussion sessions. Finally, the students prepare for the discussion practicing the English expressions the teacher has given them before getting to the discussion itself. The teacher should follow with a critique of the discussion. This might include presentation sequencing, word usage, grammar errors, body language, etc. Now may be included a further discussion of cultural differences related to the subject discussed or the situation and how it would differ in L1.
Students benefit from this activity in a number of ways. Firstly, they improve their ability to formulate a strategy. Secondly, they work on their dictionary usage skills with the teacher introducing different levels of appropriate language. Thirdly, students gain useful vocabulary and phrases within a contextual framework with examples provided by teacher and peers. What is more, students gain production practice for improving their speaking skills in a conversational format. Finally, students are introduced to L1 and L2 cultural differences by the teacher’s critique of their discussion concerning presentation, word usage and any follow-up discussion.
Finally, I will go back to the issue of rethinking GTM. A lot has been happening in what is now known as Translation Studies since the 1980s and we have come a long way from considering translation as a “search-and-replace” exercise. In fact, it has mostly been considered as such by GTM followers, not by translation practitioners or scholars. In Basil Hatim’s and Ian Mason’s words, translation is now mainly considered as “a dynamic process of communication” (1990: 52), communication being the key word here. The purpose of communicative language teaching is to facilitate the acquisition of communicative competence: the ability to express, interpret and negotiate meaning.
Translation shares with language use a communicative purpose: it is a special form of communicative language use and therefore “a unique form of second language education.” (Kiraly, 1995:34). There is no reason why we should not regard translation as a “fifth skill” (Newmark, 1991) alongside the other four basic skills in modern language teaching and exploit purposeful translation within a communicative context. Talking about skills, translation has a twofold nature: it could be both a vocational skill and a learning strategy which is an aid to language learning. Although this article touched on some aspects of professional translation and Translation Studies and their relevance to language teaching, it is the latter that it attempts to elaborate on. Yet, the interaction between Translator Training and language teaching is to be explored in a separate paper. On the whole, language teachers should be warned that translation can be “too much of a good thing” and be encouraged to use it in moderation. While it is generally agreed that too much translation is a bad thing when trying to deal with the practicalities of learning to speak a foreign language, perhaps too little is also a bad thing.

References:

  1. Anderman, G. (1998): Finding the Right Word. In Kirsten Malmkjar (ed) Translation and Language Teaching. Manchester: St. Jerome.
  2. Atkins, D. (1993): Teaching Monolingual Classes. Oxford University Press.
  3. Hatim, Basil & Ian Mason (1990): Discourse and the Translator. London: Longman.
  4. Becher, C. (1988): Adding Variety in Translation Courses. English Teaching Forum, January, 1988, 8-12.
  5. Bialystok, E. (1991): Language Processing in Bilingual Children. Cambridge.
  6. Brown, H. D. (1994): Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Prentice Hall Inc.
  7. Cazden, C. B. (1976): Play With Language and Metalinguistic Awareness. New York: Penguin.
  8. Colina, Sonia (2002): Communicative Translation Teaching: From Research to the Classroom. New York: McGraw Hill.
  9. Duff, A. (1989): Translation. Oxford University Press.
  10. Edge, J. (1986): Acquisition Disappears in Adultery: Interaction in the Translation Class. ELT Journal, 40/2: 121-124.
  11. Holland, R. & Shortall, T. (1997): Classroom Research and Research Methods. University of Birmingham, Centre of English Language Studies.
  12. Bialystok, E. (1991). Cambridge.
  13. Kern, R. G. (1994): The Role of Mental Translation in Second Language Reading. Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 16, 441-461.
  14. Kiraly, D. (1995): Pathways to Translation. Kent: Kent State University Press.
  15. Klein Braley, Christine & Peter Franklin (1998): The Foreigner in the Refrigerator. In Kirsten Malmkjar (ed) Translation and Language Teaching. Manchester: St. Jerome.
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  17. Newmark, P. (1988): A textbook of Translation. London: Prentice Hall.
  18. Newmark, P. (1991): About Translation. Clevedon. Avon: Multilingual Matters.
  19. Perkins, C. (1985): Sensitizing Advanced Learners to Problems of L1-L2 Translation. In Titford C. & Hieke A. E.
  20. Richards, J. & Rodgers, T. (1986): Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  21. Sewell, P. (1996): Translation in the Curriculum. In Sewell P. & Higgins I. (eds) Teaching Translation in Universities. Present and Future Perspectives. London: CILT.
  22. Stibbard, R. (1998): The Principled Use of Oral Translation in Foreign Language Teaching. In Kirsten Malmkjar (ed) Translation and Language Teaching. Manchester: St. Jerome.
  23. Titford, C. & Hieke A. E. (eds) (1985): Translation in Foreign Language Teaching and Testing. Tübingen: Narr.
  24. Tunmer, W. E. & Herriman, M. L. (1984): The Development of Metalinguistic Awareness: A Conceptual Overview. In Language Processing in Bilingual Children.
  25. Weschler, R. (1997): Uses of L1 in the English Classroom: Introducing the Functional-Translation Method. In The Internet TESL Journal, November, 1997: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Weschler-UsingL1.html

Look at words, look at sentences, read real books: a variety of techniques to match various learners’ intelligences

Written by: Ivanichka Nestorova, senior lecturer, South-West University, Blagoevgrad
Zarina Markova, ass. prof., South-West University, Blagoevgrad
Abstract: Are the initial literary strategies for native speakers applicable to the English language classroom in Bulgaria? Can H. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences be of help to the learners who are becoming acquainted with English words, sentences and books? This article suggests answers to the above questions and offers a range of activities about Winnie-the Pooh’s  adventures geared toward making the classroom experience more memorable and fun for both students and teachers.
The core of teaching initial reading both in L1 and L2 is providing the child with good reading strategies. Finding the optimum way of achieving literacy, on the other hand, implies the understanding of how reading works. The reading process itself is very hard to trace as reading is a silent mental activity: it is received through the eyes, but happens in the mind, and even the reader himself cannot drive an accurate account of what exactly is happening. Reading theory and research no longer view reading as a process of mere decoding, but rather as an integration of top-down processes that utilise the background knowledge and schema, as well as bottom-up processes that are primarily text or data driven (Fig. 1 from Gaspar and Brown, 1987 p. 23). It is also stressed that reading is both a perceptual and cognitive process, and that the reader is not a passive receiver, but an active participator, deeply involved in the process.
The most commonly used methods for the teaching or initial reading in English are based on the assumptions stated above. These are the Phonics method, the Look-and-Say “whole word” and “whole sentence” methods, and the Integrated Language Approach or Whole language or “real books” method.
Phonics is a literacy strategy based on the assumption that in an alphabetic system of writing no meaningful recognition of print is possible before the reader is able consciously to interpret letters in terms of phonemes. Thus the pupils are taught the sounds of the letters and encouraged to construct the overall sound of the word from the individual letter sounds. Print is viewed as encoded speech. Learning to decipher the code would give access to the sounds of the language and then, presumably by using the same mental processes that are used in understanding speech, the reader would arrive at the meaning of the coded text. The first step is the recoding, which is the “translation” from written to oral code, while the second step is the decoding proper, i.e. interpreting the oral code into meaning. The perceived written stimulus is provided with semantic value through this process. The diagram (Fig. 1) shows how the route from perception to cognition passes through three levels: the visual level: graphemes; the auditory level: phonemes; the semantic level: morphemes. It is argued (Gaspar and Brown 1987) that this phonically based method with its consideration of the minimal units working at each level is more relevant to literacy acquisition rather than developing reading. At the more advanced stages reading becomes a two-level process where there is a direct link between the visual stimulus and the semantic store in mind. Based on this claim is Marilyn Jager Adams’s (Adams 1990) argument that mastering the rules of Conventional English Orthography is a prerequisite for the development of “higher” reading skills, which leads to increasing the rate and power of comprehension.
The Look-and-say method is based on the assumption that the fluent reader receives printed words as wholes. A word is recognised by the “shape” presented by the outer contour of the whole group of letters of which it is composed, as well as by outstanding characteristics which initial and final letter sequence play an important role. With Look-and-say method a lot of pictures and flashcards are used. Each word is taught as a whole word starting with a set of basic and key words which occur over and over again in reading. From the very start students are encouraged to recognise whole words from their shape. Their attention is drawn to any visual clues, e.g. length of the word, its own shape and distinct letter shapes.
It is considered that this method implies a more direct relationship between the visual and the semantic levels. Readers are encouraged to avoid the perception of the words in terms of phonemes. It is supposed to develop a strategy which reduces inner speech (sub-vocalisations). The method also helps the reader to manage the “redundancy” of the code ignoring those features that are not absolutely necessary for its instant recognition. In this way it helps with the word specific strategy characteristic to skilled readers of English.
Whole Language or Integrated Language approach, popularly known as ”Real Books” presents a completely different philosophy of reading. Based on research in child psychology this method puts a major emphasis on the purpose of literacy: to elicit meaning from print and convey meaning in writing. That is to say the process of acquiring literacy is reversed and becomes a top-down process, starting with the Semantic Store in the mind and reaching down to the level of the graphemes to discover their meaning and interpret their phonetical value if necessary.
Integrated Language Approach is based on attempts to study literacy from the child’s point of view, on evidence of how children construct their own knowledge of reading and writing through experimentation and exploration with language. It is argued that children’s literate acts emerge from their wealth of experience with oral language and their attempts to enter the rewarding world of print (Gibson, 1989). According to the French psychologist and pedagogue Rachel Cohen (Коен, 1989) literacy is a graduate process that develops naturally after or even together with oral language acquisition and is successfully encouraged by “submerging” the child in a “literacy bath”, i.e. allowing children to experience print and discover it for themselves. Literacy development starts early, it is ongoing and on a continuum of increasing competence, therefore according to the Integrated Language Approach linguistic awareness is not necessarily a precondition to reading and writing and the best way to acquire it is not necessarily through direct instruction. In real life settings when children are engaged in activities that are purposeful like countless demonstrations of story reading and experimentation with writing, children themselves, on their own, develop the knowledge of the way print works through experience. In print–rich early learning environments, reading and writing are incorporated into every aspect of the day. Children are encouraged to explore print materials in the same enthusiastic manner that they approach sand, blocks and outdoor games. The Integrated Approach implies that when the skills of written language are imbedded in the very culture of the learning environment, reading and writing develop in much the same manner as oral language. In these settings, the skills are taught and attended to in the way that children learn best. Direct instruction on spelling-to-sound correspondences comes naturally, at a later stage, and is recognised only as a part of the integrated approach to teaching initial literacy.
Not all constructs of the Integrated Language Approach, however, are supported by new research on literacy. For example, the work of Charles Perfetti ( www.pitt.edu/-perfetti.htm) argues that written language is not just another form of language and the use of the writing system is parasitic on speech for both alphabetic and non-alphabetic orthographies, as well as that learning to read is very little like learning to speak.
It is common sense that alphabetic writing provides a code for phonological units of speech. Children are not born knowing the code and do not always develop the ability to decipher it through informal experience; therefore they arguably need some degree of explicit systematic assistance provided by a combination of Phonics and Look-and-say. Moreover, as it was pointed above, psychologically reading is viewed as a combination of both top-down and bottom-up processes, consequently, a combination of strategies should be preferred rather than rely on a single one. This was the reason why a change in the educational policy concerning literacy acquisition was implemented in both Britain and the United States calling for an integration of the three basic strategies and using them in synergy as well as mandatory use to a certain degree of Phonics in the British Educational system. (www.NCATE.comnews.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education )
Is such a balanced approach applicable for the literacy acquisition classroom of Bulgarian learners of English?
The application of the Phonics method will only be ideal for teaching reading in a language with purely phonemic orthography. After establishing a limited amount of simple derivational rules, the phonics method is used successfully with languages that show high degree of consistency in grapheme – phoneme correspondence such as Bulgarian.
A purely “Look-and-Say” method will be successful with true ideography, such as an educated Chinese might use, where a grapheme represents the semantic meaning of the whole word.
The writing system of English is none of these. Although it is based on the alphabetic principle, the relationship between phonemes and graphemes and the derivational rules that govern it are so complex that it is sometimes referred to as semi-ideography (Gaspar and Brown, 1987). The configuration of any English word as a whole, however, does not in itself provide any clue to meaning. The reader has to look for the relationship in a graphemic sequence through Phonics and Look-and-Say strategies before giving any response in auditory terms. To avoid “delay” and cope with the phonologically deep orthography a skilled reader, helped by Look-and-Say, may develop a word-specific (lexical) recognition strategy, similar to that used to read ideography. Through such a strategy a high rate and power of comprehension are achieved at the fluency level.
Bulgarian, like English, is an alphabetic language, but it has maintained close correspondence between written and spoken form. Bulgarian orthography, using the Cyrillic alphabet transcribes the sounds of the language in a direct and consistent manner. There are only few derivational rules that are very simple. Bulgarian children, when acquiring literacy in their mother tongue, develop phonologically analytic strategy and keep it in the fluency stage because with the phonologically shallow orthography it is highly productive.
Another point that should be made is that there is a major difference in the process of literacy learning in the child’s mother tongue and learning to read in a foreign language. It was mentioned earlier that when reading, the signals from the visual and phonological encoding systems go to the “semantic store” (Fig. 1) where they are translated into ideas and images. The semantic store is a sort of dictionary in the mind including all the meanings of the words within a cognitive system. The meanings are “loaded” there when the child acquires speech, learning that everything has a name. If the child does not speak the foreign language, this semantic store is missing or includes only very few items. As the spoken form provides the link between the semantic store and the visual percepts, a child can learn to read and write in a language he or she already speaks much more easily than in a foreign language. However, there are hardly any reasons for children first to learn to read and write in one language than the other, if they already speak both. As this is extremely rarely the case with English in Bulgaria it is assumed that the child should be at least at the early reading stage in Bulgarian before any formal literacy instruction in English begins.
Another point in favour of the latter argument is the fact that Bulgarian orthography is far more lawfully alphabetic than English so after learning the sounds of the letters, and after very little instruction how to connect them in words, an average Bulgarian child is able to sound any written text and provided the words in it are in his or her semantic store, to understand it. This gives confidence and independence to the young reader while the difficulties that Conventional English Orthography presents are very likely to act as a demotivating factor if the child receives formal literacy instruction in English prior to Bulgarian. Nevertheless, informal experience with print in natural environments or in the English language classroom throughout the oral EFL course is likely to be productive in terms that it will facilitate formal instruction.
Bearing all this in mind, it is clear that there are two major objectives concerning initial reading for the teacher of EFL in Bulgaria: to target Bulgarian interference at the literacy level and encourage his or her pupils to read and write English. A balanced combination of the three basic initial-reading strategies will facilitate meeting these objectives and enable teachers:

  • To make sure that their pupils shift successfully to Roman script and bridge the gap between the names of English letters and the phonemes they stand for (through Phonics and Look-and-Say)
  • To prevent learners from transferring mechanically the phonetic rules they already know from Bulgarian orthography to phonetically irregular English words. (through Look-and-Say)
  • To preserve their pupil’s motivation to learn (as it is always very high at the beginning) and try to increase their motivation to read and write in English. (through Integrated Language Approach)

A case study is presented that incorporates all three strategies. The reference is to two classes of learners at a primary school. They are second-year students aged 7 or 8. During their first year at school they had an oral course in English (3 lessons per week); they got acquainted with the Latin alphabet by the help of the Phonics method; they learned to associate letters with English words but they did not read or write. During the second year they began to learn how to read and write in English. They had four lessons a week, a lesson being 35 minutes long. The students had two teachers of English, one of them taught them 2 lessons per week following a course book ( ‘Blue skies’, Longman); the other one did not follow a prescriptive syllabus during her lessons. The case study deals with the latter teaching situation.
A course was designed, based on A. Milne’s book ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ , providing a variety of activities addressing students’ multiple intelligences. Here is a short description of the course:
Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents
Subject: English
Level: 2nd class
Age: 7-8 years
Aims:

  • Language:
    • By the end of the course pupils will have:
    • talked about food, presents, birthday parties,nature;
    • used “There is / are”, “Have / haven’t got”, “I can see; hear; smell;feel…;
    • asked for permission “Can I give it too?”;
    • commented on suggestions “This is / isn’t a very good idea”;
    • made difference between nouns, verbs and adjectives;
    • used opposite adjectives: good / bad, happy / sad, empty / full, hungry / full;
    • read sentences from the story; recognized familiar words in unfamiliar texts;
    • rearranged mixed letters in familiar words;
    • rearranged mixed words in familiar sentences;
    • acted out conversations and situated them in corresponding places.
  • Others:
    • Pupils will have developed their:
    • eye-hand co-ordination;
    • singing skills;
    • drawing skills;
    • co-operation with mates

    Time: 18 weeks, 36 lessons
    Description:

    Step 1 (1 lesson)

    The teacher tells the story of Eeyore’s birthday using toys, lots of gestures, mimes and animal sounds (translation may also help at certain points. Some of the pupils are familiar with the story, though). The teacher reinforces the learners’ previous knowledge of vocabulary connected with animals and food. The pupils get the feel for the story and a general  picture of what it is about. Then she teaches the names of the characters in the story: Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl.

    Step 2 ( 5 lessons at 5 different stages of the course)

    The pupils are given papers with texts from the story. They underline the words they can recognize. Variations of this activity is repeated throughout the course: the pupils colour the familiar words with their favourite colours; or they associate the familiar words with the corresponding animal and colour them in the appropriate colour; or they colour the words they find easy orange and the ones they find difficult blue. At the end of the course the pupils colour the familiar words according to the following scheme: nouns – red; verbs – blue; adjectives – yellow.

    Step 3

    The whole story about Eeyore’s birthday is divided into 6 parts:

    1. Winnie-the-Pooh meets Eeyore and understands about his birthday.
    2. Winnie-the-Pooh meets Piglet and tells him about Eeyore’s birthday. They discuss the presents.
    3. Winnie-the-Pooh  starts for Eerore’s place but gets hungry and eats the honey.
    4. Winnie-the-Pooh meets Owl and they write ‘Happy birthday’ on the empty pot.
    5. Piglet bursts the balloon.
    6. Eeyore receives his presents.

    Step 4 ( 6 lessons at 6 different stages of the course)

    The teacher tells the first part of the story again, this time using flashcards with what the characters say. Helped by the teacher, the pupils read the sentences on the flashcards. They practise the dialogue chorally, then sing it as a chant and finally act it in pairs. This procedure is followed when introducing the other parts of the story (see step 3).

    Step 5 ( 6 lessons at 6 different stages of the course)

    The pupils practise reading by playing a board game in groups of 3-4.  The board game consists of squares with written sentences from the dialogues or pictures of the characters involved. The students throw a dice and move a counter along the track. When they step on a picture, they have to name it. When they step on a sentence, they have  to read it. If they cannot do that, they are helped by their partners but they miss a turn. When the pupils finish the game, they write the words or sentences they stepped on. This activity with different contents is repeated throughout the course for practising the latest part of the story.

    Step 6 ( 5 lessons at 5 different stages of the course)

    To practise the pupils’ spelling the teacher provides them with activities in which they have to rearrange mixed letters and form familiar words or rearrange mixed words and form familiar sentences. In other activities the pupils have to decipher coded words and messages using a code given by the teacher. At a later stage they themselves cipher sentences from the story and their friends have to guess them.

    To reinforce the familiar vocabulary the class, divided in 2 teams, play the game ‘noughts and crosses”. The numbers of letters in the words are given together with their first and last letters. When a team guess the word and spell it correctly, they put their sign (a nought or cross) in the corresponding square ( Since the pupils got over-excited during this game, they played it at the end of the lessons).

    Step 7 (2 lessons)

    Maps of the woods where the animals live are distributed among the pupils who have to find each animal’s house (this map is taken from the original book containing ‘Winnie-the Pooh’ and ‘The House at Pooh Corner’). When the pupils find all the houses, they colour them. They may colour the rest of the map as well. Then they write (the less advanced learners copy them from the board) different sentences from the story on different pieces of paper and put them on those places on the map where the corresponding conversations take place. More and more sentences are given until the pupils construct the complete dialogues and situate them in their appropriate places.

    Step 8 (2 lessons)

    The pupils make figures of the animals from the story using plasticine. They decorate the maps with different natural materials. This decoration is preceded by a discussion of what you can see in a wood; what you can smell, hear, feel. Some new useful vocabulary is presented.

    Step 9 (1 lesson)

    Using their plasticine figures as toy animals and the map as woods, the pupils act out the dialogues from the story. Most of them have learned the dialogues by heart so far. Those who have not find support reading the sentences they have written on the pieces of paper.

    Comments:

    Throughout the course the pupils were asked to consider what words or sentences they found easy and what – difficult; what activities they found entertaining; boring; easy or difficult. They were not made to take part in activities they felt anxious about. However, when they saw that the others were having a good time and were advancing, they joined in.

    All the pupils were thrilled when the maps were presented to them. They enjoyed colouring and decorating the maps and making animals of plasticine.

    The pupils particularly liked the board games. In fact, one of the classes wanted to play each lesson, which, of course, was impossible.

    Although some of the pupils had already heard the story, all of them enjoyed listening to it in English and prompting the teacher what to say. They were fascinated by the book, wanted to hold it, turn its pages, look at the illustrations. They felt extremely proud that they were able to recognize words and even read some sentences in a real English book. As the course was advancing, more and more students were coming to their English lessons bringing different editions of A. Milne’s book translated in Bulgarian. They were reading them at home, looking for Bulgarian equivalents of the sentences they learned, comparing the illustrations. This interest of theirs, together with the language they acquired, was found extremely rewarding by their teacher.

    References:

    • Adams, M.J. (1990) Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print. Cambridge, MA: the MIT Press
    • Gaspar, R and David Brown (1987) Perceptual Processes in Reading. Hutchinson
    • Gibson, L. (1989) Through Children’s Eyes. Literacy Learning in the Early Years. CASSELL
    • Коен, Р. (1989) „На шест години не е ли късно” С.
    • www.pitt.edu/-perfetti.htmwww.NCATE.comnews.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education

    What (not) to do in the EFL classroom

    Written by: Valentin A. Videnov, New Bulgarian University [toc class=”toc-right”]
    Abstract: The article describes some observations on the effectiveness of teaching strategies in the EFL classroom, concentrating on some dubious practices, such as blackboard use and overuse, communication and free activities and dictation, and further on utilizing classroom time through some elements of the Direct Method, the role of explanation and the realization that learning is a process that happens mainly outside the classroom. Its main idea is that the teacher should be a manager of the learning enterprise.
    The observation basis of this paper is narrow indeed: the author’s own practice teaching English at various levels, most currently in the OOOK classes at New Bulgarian University – Sofia, which are used to fulfil the general foreign language requirement for university students of non-language majors. So some caution is to be applied as to the dubious ultimate value of the paper itself, which tends more to prescribe observations rather than present the results of serious investigation and research. Even the perusal of the relevant literature is here spared the reader; the concentration of the paper is exclusively on personal feelings.

    I. Dubious practices

    The first part of the paper focuses on some dubious classroom practices, and tries to evaluate their viability in the belief that by eliminating or restricting their influence, and by proper understanding of their significance, their good and bad sides, the EFL instruction could be ultimately bettered.

    1. Blackboard use and overuse

    The blackboard is no doubt essential for foreing language instruction. Without a blackboard to write on, the instructor – understandably – feels crippled. But do we not sometimes tend to use the blackboard too much, resort ot it out of habit, and waste classroom time writing on it (and making students copy from it) rather than devote that time to something more valuable?
    One of the things a lot of EFL instructors use the blackboard for is to write new words and their transcriptions, occasionally going so far as including the L1 translation as well. But consider such (extreme) examples as film, plan and list? What possible use could writing them and their transcriptions (and even translations) on the blackboard serve? The first word has exactly the same transcrption and (Bulgarian) translation, the second only deviates in the transcription by the open e, and the third has a significant difference in the translation (it is an exaple of the so-called ‘false friend’) which, however, can perfectly be emphasized orally; there is no need to write it on the blackboard. Even more complicated words and transcriptions do not necessarily need to be written on the blackboard, and Danchev et al. warn against such a practice in their introduction to the coursebook English for Bulgarians, stating that all words with their respective transciptions are given at the back of the book, and that classroom time should be more effectively utilized by doing exercises rather than writing words and transcriptions on the blackboard. Endeed vocabulary sections are common in modern instruction materials (see alse Grozdanova et al., A World of English), and some, such as the Headway series, have special word lists, whose idea is to be distributed among the students and used by them during the introduction of the new words and later in studying them.
    The practice of writing every new word and its transcription on the blackboard is actulally the excuse of instructors who have no idea of what better to do to spend the classroom time. Not that the blackboard should not be used at all in introducing new words. There are cases in which the pronunication presents special problems, and a point should be made about it, with some things in the transcription and the spelling possibly underlined or written in red; for instance the words colleague, colleagues, even in this case in comparison with the name of Coleridge. In the latter case, as in many others, it is actulally more useful to write only part of the transciption above the respective string in the spelling. The idea is that the blackboard is to be used only for things worth writing, to make a point, which is to be specially meaningful to (and remembered by) the students; for instance writing the three forms of strike – struck – struck, and then the noun stroke and the form for compound adjectives formation stricken. This is a case where students are likely to make mistakes, and putting the whole case, for contrastive purposes, on the blackboard, is a way of preventing that.

    2. Dictation

    Dictation is no longer as widely used in EFL instrucion as it was before, including its use for testing purposes. Yet if it is used with a strong connection with the material, such as the dictations offrered in Grozdanova et al., it could be very helpful. The skill to write a text correctly under dictation reveals – especially in the context of English, where such a discrepancy between spelling and pronunciation exists – the ability to recognize new (and old) words, to make sense of grammar, to respond quickly, and often automatically, under the pressure of time. What is important is to know what the dictation tests. For instance in the 1996 State Examination in English at the University of Plovdiv (conducted under the general supervision of Michael Grancharov), the word Michaelmas appeared in an extract from Dickens. Now without a broad cultural knowledge, it is almost impossible to make an educated guess about the spelling of this word, and yet it could be argued that such a guess could be made by analogy with the word Christmas. What I want to empahisize is that dictation should be used with discretion, and then it still has something to offer in the context of the EFL classroom.

    3. ‘Communication’ and free activities

    A recent general trend in EFL instruction is the prevalence of the Communicative Approach with practices such as information gap filling and role play. The idea is to get away as much as possible from controlled activities in the direction of maximally free ones. But such an approach presents numerous problems. While free activitieas are no doubt fun and appeal to the students, they require too much organization time and create classroom management problems, not the least of which is the use of L1 among the students, which is very difficult to stop. So ultimately these activities accomplish very little in terms of L2 learning, while eating at classroom time in the course organization.
    It is important to understand how valuable classroom time is, and how precious little of it is available in the context of the EFL course. It is also important to understand where (and how) learning a foreing language actually happens. Is it by free activities such as role play (of which no doubt there should be some share), or is it by painstaking learning of vocabulary and structures at home. Finally, it is important to ask ourselves, Which student makes more progress: the one preparing at home, or the one coming ot the classroom expecting the next ‘fun’ activity?

    II. Utilizing classroom time

    The next section of the paper is devoted to ideas for utilizing classroom time in the best interests of the students involved. It is nurtured by the belief that learning is a complex process that happens mainly outside the classroom and that the instructor should be the skillful manager of this process.

    1. Employing some principles of the Direct Method

    The Direct Method is relatively old in the history of FLT, yet some of its elements are viable even today. L2 should constantly be used in the classroom, starting with the lowest levels. In this way the students gain exposure to the target langauge, and some confidence using it in restricted situations. Furthermore, the context of the classroom is the most authentic possible, where communication serves a well-defined purpose and springs from a genuine desire and need to communicate. If we compare the constant classroom use of L2 with role play (mentioned earlier as part of the free actvities prevalent today), we immediately notice the difference and realize how artificial role play actually is. In his book Assessing Grammar James Purpura defends multiple choice exercises by claiming that they fit in well in the instructional domain of L2 use. In the same way we could say that in the EFL context the instructional domain is the most important, and that communication and exposure should happen primarily there. But we should not forget that, unlike ESL where the target language is the only means of communication between students and isntructor and between the students themselves, the EFL setting presents the danger of slipping back into L1, especially at the critical points. This danger should be constantly kept in mind until the use of L2 in the classroom becomes habitual for students and instructor alike.

    2. What and how much to explain (in L2)

    Even though explanation on the part of the instructor is an essential component of EFL instruction, its actual amount really depends on the group. The less advanced students should not be given less attention in terms of explanation however, for the sake of mere speed of progression. What is important is to offer good and penetrating explanations, making the students try to follow. The results would by all means be satisfactory, if we have already instilled the principles of the Direct Method in the minds of our students. Explaining the new material is probably the sole most important part of classroom time (apart from the time devoted to discussion and the more mechanical exercises, elements of the Audio-Lingual Method); it should be given an utterly serious attention. It is almost never the case that explanation proves to be too much: if the students even hear some points from the old material repeated, they are more likely to understand and memorize them.

    3. The learning enterprize

    Learning is a process that happens mainly outside the classroom; classroom time is only sufficient to control and channel this process. So we should by all means take time to ensure the process is actually going on. This organization time is never wasted in terms of the overall course, and in terms of students’ learning the L2 in general. This is what instills learning habits in them. Professor Robert Hahn teaches Elelentary Formal Logic at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. In his regular circular letter to his teaching assistants he requires them to collect one homework and do a quiz every class. This actually ensures that the students spend time at home working on the material, and their progress can thus be evaluated, so that steps could be taken to improve it.
    Using constant control (by means of homework and tests) is one way to manage the learning enetrprize. It requires great pains on the part of the instructor, but gives him or her the necessary feedback for the continuation of the learning process. We should understand how precious little time we have in class and make every minute of it meaningful in terms of the overall organization of the course. Our efforts should center on encouraging the students’ independent (but managed) learning.
    By means of conclusion, we should consider the intrinsically unpleasant nature of foreing language learning. Effective learning is not a game, but requires great pains on the part of the students. Classroom management should always keep that in mind, while providing the management of the whole learning enterprize.

    Using “rubbish” and “leftovers” in ELT classroom – enticing speaking and creative writing

    Written by: Desislava Zareva, Ellie Boyadzhieva [toc class=”toc-right”]
    This workshop has been presented three times. First, in 2006 at the Maltepe Conference held in Istanbul, Turkey, second at the 15th BETA annual conference in Plovdiv and as a part of BETA Days training seminars in 2007 held in Vidin. This article is based on these three workshops which have proven to be easily adaptable to various audiences and contexts. On all those three occasions it was readily accepted and enticed active participation and showed genuine involvement on the part of the participants. This gives us grounds for sharing it with a wider ELT community.
    Below you can find the structure of the workshop and part of the materials used throughout the three presentations. We cannot give an exhaustive set of all used materials as they varied every time and new materials can be added or substituted for others depending on the personal preferences and abilities of both the teachers and the target groups.

    Aims of the workshop. Here are three basic aims that the authors have defined and which can be altered or adapted to the particular needs of the specific group:

    • To show how easily teachers can provide a meaningful context for language use in ELT classroom;
    • To persuade both students and teachers that they can take a well deserved break from mundane routine and employ their creativity when learning and teaching;
    • To convince FL teachers that creative tasks are not a waste of time as they provide space for developing all five skills, fluency as well as accuracy.

    Workshop Procedures.

    Preparation of the materials needed.

    As it can be seen from the title of the workshop the materials used predominantly present brochures, tickets, postcards, receipts, various leaflets and photos. They can have been collected by the teachers themselves during trips in different countries or brought or sent to them by colleagues and friends. The most important thing is that the materials should be authentic and as they are to be used in the ELT classroom they should be preferably in English language though not at all necessarily. The materials are filed in a number of sets corresponding to the number of the groups involved in the particular workshop. Another important issue is that the materials should be arranged in such a way so that to follow logically the original story line. One final issue of concern based on our practical experience is that every piece of material should be thoroughly examined in terms of potential pitfalls related to the participants’ cultural and ethnic background and age.   This is necessary as the main objective is use English in an enjoyable environment where nobody should feel offended or embarrassed in one way or another.

    The group is divided into subgroups

    of three or four people each. The original workshop was designed for six subgroups. According to the context and the volume of the materials the number of the groups can vary. However, the teacher should be aware of the fact that the story line is to be kept logical.

    The  grouping itself  may follow different patterns depending on whether the participants are familiar or unfamiliar to the facilitators and their own creativity. Once divided each group receives a pre-prepared set of materials and a worksheet with a different task after which all listen to the introduction of the story which they need to complete and which is read aloud by the facilitators. We must point out that the story is READ and the participants are advised to take notes as it is meant as a listening comprehension exercise.

    The Story.

    It is a detective story. The participants are expected to act as detectives from different countries who have to work in an international  team whose task is to locate two missing persons. The plot of the story comprises the following two emails:

    Email 1
    To: europol@europe.org
    From: bigfish@bigfish.com
    Subject: two employees missing
    Dear Sir or Madam,
    We would lime to report two of our company’ s employees missing since last September.
    Ms Bird (ornitologist) and Mr.Fisher (sea-life expert) were assigned last September to visit several European countries in order to monitor the sea life and birds population around some big sea ports. They were expected to send samples and submit reports to “BigFish Monitoring” every two weeks. Our company provided the two researchers with all the necessary equipment and with a sum of 15 000 EURO to cover all their travel expences (transportation, accommodation, food, communication – phones and internet).
    We are slightly worried as we have not heard from them since 30 September. This is the date of their last email with a message informing us about them being on their way to the next stop on their itinerary: Bulgaria.
    Please help us locate Ms Bird and Mr.Fisher.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Yours faithfully,
    Dolphine Bigfish
    Marina Swan
    P.S. Please find attached the reserachers itinerary.


    Email 2:
    To: POLICE Headquarters Bulgaria; Romania; Estonia; Netherlands; UK
    From: europol@europe.org
    Subject: two researchers reported missing
    Dear colleagues
    Help us trace two missing people – Ms Bird (42)- ornitologist & Mr Fisher (30) – sealife expert – both working for “Bigfish Monitoring”.
    Last contact with them – 30 September.
    Their itinerary as reported: BULGARIA 1-15 October, ROMANIA  16-31 October, ESTONIA (Tallin) 1-15 November, NETHERLANDS (Amsterdam) 16 – 30 November,UK (Edinburgh) 1-15 December.
    Their task: birdwatch & monitoring sea life around big ports.
    There’s something fishy about the employers – they only reported their employees missing after 3 months, so check them out as well.
    Best
    EUROPOL Headquarters

    Group Tasks.

    Having heard the emails, the participants from different groups start working on their individual tasks. For convenience the worksheets are colour-coded and provide necessary spaces for note-taking.

    GROUP 1 : BULGARIA  1 – 15 October

    These are the items that the Bulgarian Police managed to collect after receiving the email from EUROPOL. They certainly throw some light on the personalities of both researchers.

    1. Make a report to your colleagues in EUROPOL describing Ms Bird’s and Mr. Fisher’s interests and personal preferences. Make some deductions about the places they possibly visited, things they could have done, what they might have eaten, drunk, bought while they were in Bulgaria.
    2. Is there any solid evidence that something went wrong in Bulgaria and that this is the country where they went missing?
    3. Choose a spokesperson who will report your findings  to the Police representatives from other countries. Time for your report is limited to 2 minutes. (Make notes beforehand if necessary)

    GROUP 2:  ROMANIA  15 – 31 October

    These are the items that the Romanian Police managed to collect after receiving the email from EUROPOL. They certainly throw some light on the activities of both researchers in that country.

    1. Make a report to your colleagues in EUROPOL describing Ms Bird’s and Mr. Fisher’s activities in Romania between 15-31 October. What places have they visited? What kind of work did they do? Which towns did they go to?
    2. Is there any solid evidence that something went wrong in Romania and that this is the country where they went missing?
    3. Choose a spokesperson who will report your findings to the Police representatives from other countries. Time for your report is limited to 2 minutes. (Make notes beforehand if necessary)

    GROUP 3:  ESTONIA (Tallin) 1 – 15 November

    These are the items that the Estonian Police managed to collect after receiving the email from EUROPOL. They needed some cooperation from the Finnish Police as well, since they found a Ferry ticket to Helsinki. It was clear that one of the researchers went to Finland without being authorized by the “BigFish Monitoring”.

    1. Make a report to your colleagues in EUROPOL describing Ms Bird’s and Mr. Fisher’s activities in Tallin (and Helsinki) between 1 – 15 November. Judging from the evidence try to hypothesize what might(must)  have happened to one of the fellows. What did each of them do?
    2. Is there any solid evidence that something went wrong in Estonia and that this is the country where they went missing?
    3. Choose a spokesperson who will report your findings  to the Police representatives from other countries. Time for your report is limited to 2 minutes. (Make notes beforehand if necessary)

    GROUP 4:  NETHERLANDS (Amsterdam) 15 – 30 November

    These are the items that the Dutch Police managed to collect after receiving the email from EUROPOL.  They were left in the researchers’ hotel room.

    1. Examine carefully the police evidence and give your ideas about Ms Bird’s and Mr. Fisher’s time in Amsterdam. Make a report to your colleagues in EUROPOL describing Ms Bird’s and Mr. Fisher’s activities. What did they do? Where in Amsterdam did they go? Were they together?
    2. Is there any solid evidence that something went wrong in the Netherlands and that this is the country where they went missing?
    3. Choose a spokesperson who will report your findings  to the Police representatives from other countries. Time for your report is limited to 2 minutes. (Make notes beforehand if necessary)

    GROUP 5:   UK  (Edinburgh) 1-15 December

    These are the items that the Police in Edinburgh managed to collect after receiving the email from EUROPOL. The Scottish Police were surprised to find only one landing card filled out at the immigration desk which raised speculations about the researchers’ true identities.

    1. Examine carefully the police evidence and give your ideas about Ms Bird’s and Mr. Fisher’s time in Edinburgh. What kind of shops did they go to? What kind of things did they buy? Did they do any work? Did they see any places of interest?
    2. Is there any solid evidence that something went wrong in the UK and that this is the country where they went missing?
    3. Choose a spokesperson who will report your findings to the Police representatives from other countries. Time for your report is limited to 2 minutes.

    GROUP 6:  Somewhere in the best parts of the world…

    Two weeks after EUROPOL emailed, a private investigator sent these materials to Interpol and to a couple of newspapers. As the pictures were quite revealing of the researchers’ exact location, some hours later Euronews and CNN were already broadcasting interviews with Ms Bird and Mr. Fisher. Examine closely the evidence giving details about the end of a very successful investigation.

    1. Make a short piece of news for the papers, telling in brief the researchers’ story. Where are they now? What are they doing? What are their plans for the future? What is their life likely to be?
    2. Report to the Police. (Make notes beforehand if necessary)

    Timing.

    The original workshop has been designed for 60 minutes, where the basic  group work takes approximately half of the time. Enough time should be left for the initial grouping, group reports and for coming to conclusions (in cases when the workshop is done for teacher training purposes).

    Methodological implications:

    As we have already mentioned this workshop proved to be highly motivating for the participants as they have been actively involved in using English and practising all the four skills as well as covering different items of grammar and vocabulary. In fact, each task has been carefully designed as to focus on a particular grammatical issue and a set of vocabulary. For example, while group 3 struggles with modal verbs and modality, Group 5 practises past tenses use.  These are not explicitly defined as necessary, the practised  pattern is predefined in the form of the questions accompanying every task.  As far as the vocabulary is concerned, it directly derives from the set of materials.  For example, Group 5 has to deal with shopping, while Group 2 focuses on description of places.  One valuable asset of this workshop is that it provides the opportunity for all groups to be exposed to all practised items during its last stage – the reports.

    Instead of a conclusion we offer a summary of all the activities this workshop involves:

    • Language Skills
    • Reading (an email, instructions, skimmed and scanned the materials)
    • Writing (note-taking, reports, summaries, different genres)
    • Listening (to instructions, group reports, each other within a smaller group)
    • Speaking (informally, formally, dialogues, arguments, short monologues)
    • Intercultural Skills (Byram 1994)
    • Attitudes: curiosity and openness
    • Readiness to suspend disbelief about other cultures and beliefs  about one’s own.
    • Knowledge: of social groups and their products and practices in one’s own and  in one’s interlocutor’s country, and of general processes of societal and individual interaction.
    • Skills : of interpreting and relating – ability to interpret a document or event from another culture; to explain it and relate it  to documents and events from one’s own;
    • of discovery and interaction – ability to acquire new knowledge of a culture and cultural practices and the ability to operate  the knowledge, attitudes and skills under the constraints of real time communication and interaction.
    • Critical Cultural Awareness : an ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria, perspectives, practices and products in one’s own and other cultures and countries.
    • Areas
    • Grammar (all main tenses and voices were covered)
    • Vocabulary (several basic areas)

    References


    Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence, Clevedon: Multilingual matters.
    Damen, L. (1987) Culture Learning: The Fifth Dimension In The Classroom, Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc.
    Intercultural Studies For Language Teachers (2001), Module One, Unit Three, Sofia: British Council
    Seely, H. (1994) Teaching Culture, Lincolnwood, Illinois: National Textbook Company

    Using Contemporary literature instead of human anatomy course book

    Written by: Lyubov Dombeva, Dobromir Vetsov
    Roerich School, Sofia
    Artist: Monthy Python
    Song: Brave Sir Robin
    1. Listen to the song and fill in the blanks using the words in the list:
    A. lads                               J. nostrils
    B. kneecaps                       K. least
    C. die                                L. bold
    D. body                             M. mashed
    E.   bottom                         N. killed
    F. liver                               O. elbow
    G. bowels                          P. limbs
    H. heart                             R. head
    I. eyes
    Bravely ___1___ Sir Robin, rode forth from Camelot
    he was not afraid to ___2___, ohh brave Sir Robin,
    he was not at all afraid to be ___3___ in nasty ways,
    brave brave brave brave Sir Robin!
    He was not in the ___4___ bit scared to be ____5___ into a pulp
    or to have his ___6____ gouged out and his ___7____ broken
    To have his ____8____ split and his ____9____ burned away
    and his ____10_____ all hacked and mangled brave Sir Robin!
    His ___11___ bashed in and his ____12___ cut out
    and his ___13____ removed and his ___14____ unplugged
    and his ____15___ raped and his _____16___ burned off and his penis…
    “Thats enough music for now ___17____, looks like there’s dirty work afoot“
    “HALT!!!!!”
    2. In two columns distinguish between the organs and the body parts of Sir Robin mentioned in the text.

    organs body parts


    3. Describe organs’ functions.
    Artist: Monthy Python
    Song: Galaxy Song

    1. Order the paragraphs of the song.
    2. Listen to the song to find out if you’ve ordered it correctly.
    3. Underline all expressions that show speed. Convert miles per hour (minute, second) into kilometers per hour (minute, second).

    A. As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
    twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
    B. It’s orbiting at 90 miles a second, so it’s reckoned
    a sun that is the source of all our power.
    C. The sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
    are moving at a million miles a day.
    In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
    of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.
    D. It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
    but out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
    E. Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving,
    and revolving at 900mph.
    F. We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
    We go ’round every two hundred million years,
    and our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
    in this amazing and expanding universe.
    G. Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
    It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
    H. Whenever life gets you down Mrs. Braun
    and things seem hard or tough
    and people are stupid obnoxious or daft
    and you feel that you had quite enough.
    I. So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
    how amazingly unlikely is your birth,
    and pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
    ’cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.
    J. The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
    in all of the directions it can whiz.
    DIARY
    By Chuck Palahniuk
    1. Guess the source of the text.
    2. Skim the text and match the blanks with appropriate words from the boxes.
    3. Listen to the text and check whether you filled the blanks correctly.

    A. wrinkle
    B. contraction
    C. movement
    D. layers
    E. texture
    F. pocket
    G. cheek
    H. dermis
    I. epidermis
    J. muscles
    K. curtain
    L. upper
    M. major
    N. permanent
    O. greasy
    P. frown
    Q. scream
    R. touch
    S. protects
    T. think
    U. slides
    V. unveiling
    W. running
    X. pulling
    Y. confused
    Z. caused

    The official anatomy word for a __1__ is rhytide. Those creases in the top half of your face, the rhytides plowed across your forehead and around your eyes, this is dynamic wrinkling, also called hyperfunctional facial lines, caused by the ­­­­­__2___ of the underlying muscles. Most wrinkles in the lower half of the face are static rhytides, __3___ by sun and gravity.
    Let’s look in the mirror. Really look at your face. Look at your eyes, your mouth.
    This is what you think you know best.
    Your skin comes in three basic__4___. What you can __5___ is the stratum corneum, a layer of flat, dead skin cells pushed up by the new cells under them. What you feel, that __6__ feeling, is your acid mantle, the coating of oil and sweat that ___7__ you from germs and fungus. Under that is your __8___. Below the dermis is a layer of fat. Below the fat are the _9__ of your face.
    When you pull up your __10___ lip – when you show that one top tooth, the one the museum guard broke – this is your levator labii superioris muscle at work. Your sneer muscle.
    When you __11___, this is your orbicularis oris stretched to the very limit.
    That deep crease from each corner of your mouth to your nose is your nasolabial fold. Sometimes called your ‘sneer __13__’. As you age, the little round cushion of fat inside your __14___, the official anatomy word is malar fat pad, it __15__ lower and lower until it comes to rest against your nasolabial fold – making your face a _16___ sneer.
    Now __17__. This is your triangularis muscle __18__ down the corners of your orbicularis oris muscle.
    The ‘orange peel’ __19__of your chin, these ‘popply’ bimps are caused by your mentalis muscle. Those frown lines you see every morning, getting deeper, __20_ from each corner of your mouth down to the edge of your chin, those are called marionette lines. The wrinkles between your eyebrows, they’re glabelar furrows.
    This is your face.
    Now, smile.
    This is your zygomatic __22__ muscle. Each __23__ pulls your flesh apart the way tiebacks hold open the drapes in your living room window. The way cables pull aside a theater __24__, your every smile is an opening night. A premiere. You __25__ yourself.
    If you’re a little __26__ right now, relax. Don’t worry. All you need to know is this is your face. This is what you _27__ you know best.
    These are the three layers of your skin.
    The _28__, the dermis and the fat.
    4. Use the text to fill in the table.

    MUSCLE FUNCTION
    frontalis Lifts the eyebrows
    orbicularis oculi Closes the eye
    auricularis Moves the ear in mammals, no function in humans
    Lifts the chin skin and the lower lip
    masseter Closes the mouth and helps in chewing
    levator labii superioris
    zygomaticus
    Closes the lips and makes mouth narrower
    Pulls the lower lip downward and sideward


    5. Label the diagram.

    Winnie-the-Pooh revisited: a case study on the application of multiple intelligences theory in teaching English to young learners

    Written by: Zarina Markova, ass. prof., South-West University
    Abstract: According to the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) every single child and person in general, can excel in a different area depending on their intelligence (linguistic, logico-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist). The implications for language teaching are that classroom activities should be organised in a way which stimulates our students’ various intelligences. As a result, they get more actively involved in the learning process.

    MI theory – a brief introduction

    At the end of the 20th century, Howard Gardner gave teachers a new way to look at the learning process by claiming that intelligence and learning are multidimensional. Thanks to him, teachers confirmed something they have always felt: intelligence is not what you are born with and there is little you can do to change it. Gardner argued that human beings have evolved to have several distinct intelligences to solve any potential problem in their daily lives. In this way, Gardner identified the following intelligences: linguistic intelligence or the ability to communicate to each other; logical-mathematical intelligence or the ability to manipulate numbers or quantities; visual-spatial intelligence or the ability to present the spatial world visually in your mind; musical intelligence or the ability to hear music in our head; kinaesthetic intelligence or the ability to use the whole or parts of the body to solve a problem; naturalist intelligence or the ability to observe and notice changes in the environment; intrapersonal intelligence or the ability to know and understand ourselves; and interpersonal intelligence or the ability to understand other people (fig.1). Although each intelligence is relatively interdependent or semi-autonomous of the others, any significant achievement involves a blend of intelligences.

    fig. 1

    MI Theory and TEFL

    What are the implications of MI theory for foreign language teaching? As language teachers we traditionally focus most of our attention on the linguistic ability of our students. Students whose strong areas are elsewhere might be seen by us as inactive, stupid and demotivated and, as a result, neglected in the teaching process. If we cater for the various student intelligence profiles that exist in our learning environment we will activate more students and will increase their motivation to study English.

    Outline of the teaching situation

    MI theory was implemented in the English language classroom during a 36-lesson language course which took place in a school in Blagoevgrad. 42 eight-year-old children in their second year of study took part in the project. During their first year they had an oral course in English (3 lessons per week); got acquainted with the Latin alphabet; learned to associate letters with English words but they did not read or write anything. During their second year they began to learn how to read and write in English. They had 4 lessons per week with two different teachers: one of them taught them 2 lessons per week following a course book (‘Blue Skies for Bulgaria’, Longman); the other – 2 lessons per week for which there was no prescriptive syllabus. The case study deals with the latter teaching situation.
    After the Christmas holiday the children were asked to fill in a questionnaire about the school activities they like most (table 1).

    I like I like I don’t know I don’t like
    Reading
    Writing
    Maths
    Drawing
    Music
    English
    History and Geography
    Doing things with my hands
    Physical education
    Learning about other people

    table 1
    Although I was aware of my pupils’ preferences, this questionnaire helped me to get a more detailed picture of their likes and dislikes (chart 1). All children appointed the activities associated with physical education as their favourite which confirmed the my expectations and made necessary the design of as many teaching activities catering forkinaesthetic learners as possible. Since the least appealingactivity was writing the challenge when designing the course was how to ‘disguise’ writing tasks as more attractive activities catering simultaneously for the linguistic and some of the other intelligences (table 3).
    After the analysis of the children’s preferences a course was devised, based on A. Milne’s book ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, providing a variety of activities addressing learners’ multiple intelligences.

    chart 1

    Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents

    Subject: English
    Level: 2nd class
    Age: 7-8 years
    Aims:
    Language:
    By the end of the course pupils will have:

    • talkedabout food, presents, birthday parties, nature;
    • used “There is / are”, “Have / haven’t got”, “I can see; hear; smell;feel…;
    • asked for permission “Can I give it too?”;
    • commented on suggestions “This is / isn’t a very good idea”;
    • made difference between nouns, verbs and adjectives;
    • used opposite adjectives: good / bad, happy / sad, empty / full, hungry / full;
    • read sentences from the story;
    • recognized familiar words in unfamiliar texts;
    • rearranged mixed letters in familiar words;
    • rearranged mixed words in familiar sentences;
    • acted out conversations and situated them in corresponding places.

    Others:
    Pupils will have developed their:

    • eye-hand co-ordination;
    • singing skills;
    • drawing skills;
    • co-operation with mates

    Time: 18 weeks, 36 lessons
    Description:

    Step 1 (1 lesson)

    The teacher tells the story of Eeyore’s birthday using toys, lots of gestures, mimes and animal sounds (translation may also help at certain points. Some of the pupils are familiar with the story, though). The teacher reinforces the learners’ previous knowledge of vocabulary connected with animals and food. The pupils get the feel for the story and a general picture of what it is about. Then she teaches the names of the characters in the story: Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl.

    Step 2 ( 5 lessons at 5 different stages of the course)

    The pupils are given papers with texts from the story. They underline the words they can recognize. Variations of this activity is repeated throughout the course: the pupils colour the familiar words with their favourite colours; or they associate the familiar words with the corresponding animal and colour them in the appropriate colour; or they colour the words they find easy orange and the ones they find difficult blue. At the end of the course the pupils colour the familiar words according to the following scheme: nouns – red; verbs – blue; adjectives – yellow.

    Step 3

    The whole story about Eeyore’s birthday is divided into parts:

    1. Winnie-the-Pooh meets Eeyore and understands about his birthday.
    2. Winnie-the-Pooh meets Piglet and tells him about Eeyore’s birthday. They discuss the presents.
    3. Winnie-the-Pooh starts for Eerore’s place but gets hungry and eats the honey.
    4. Winnie-the-Pooh meets Owl and they write ‘Happy birthday’ on the empty pot.
    5. Piglet bursts the balloon.
    6. Eeyore receives his presents.

    Step 4 ( 6 lessons at 6 different stages of the course)

    The teacher tells the first part of the story again, this time using flashcards with what the characters say. Helped by the teacher, the pupils read the sentences on the flashcards. They practise the dialogue chorally, then sing it as a chant and finally act it in pairs. This procedure is followed when introducing the other parts of the story (see step 3).

    Step 5 ( 6 lessons at 6 different stages of the course)

    The pupils practise reading by playing a board game in groups of 3-4. (fig. 1). They throw a dice and move a counter along the track. When they step on a picture, they have to name it. When they step on a sentence, they have to read it. If they cannot do that, they are helped by their partners but they miss a turn. When the pupils finish the game, they write the words or sentences they stepped on. This activity with different contents is repeated throughout the course for practicing the latest part of the story.

    Step 6 ( 5 lessons at 5 different stages of the course)

    To practise the pupils’ spelling the teacher provides them with activities in which they have to rearrange mixed letters and form familiar words or rearrange mixed words and form familiar sentences. In other activities the pupils have to decipher coded words and messages using a code given by the teacher. At a later stage they themselves cipher sentences from the story and their friends have to guess them.
    To reinforce the familiar vocabulary the class, divided in 2 teams, play the game ‘noughts and crosses”. The numbers of letters in the words are given together with their first and last letters. When a team guess the word and spell it correctly, they put their sign (a nought or cross) in the corresponding square ( Since the pupils got over-excited during this game, they played it at the end of the lessons).

    Step 7 (2 lessons)

    Maps of the woods where the animals live are distributed among the pupils who have to find each animal’s house (this map is taken from the original book containing ‘Winnie-the Pooh’ and ‘The House at Pooh Corner’). When the pupils find all the houses, they colour them. They may colour the rest of the map as well. Then they write (the less advanced learners copy them from the board) different sentences from the story on different pieces of paper and put them on those places on the map where the corresponding conversations take place. More and more sentences are given until the pupils construct the complete dialogues and situate them in their appropriate places.

    Step 8 (2 lessons)

    The pupils make figures of the animals from the story using plasticine. They decorate the maps with different natural materials. This decoration is preceded by a discussion of what you can see in a wood; what you can smell, hear, feel. Some new useful vocabulary is presented.

    Step 9 (1 lesson)

    Using their plasticine figures as toy animals and the map as woods, the pupils act out the dialogues from the story.Most of them have learned the dialoguesby heart so far. Those who have not find support reading the sentences they have written on the pieces of paper.
    Below is a table of the teaching activities used throughout the course and the intelligences they cater for.

    Activity Intelligences addressed
    Scan the text and find(colour) familiar words linguistic
    Read the dialogue and sing it as a chant linguistic, musical
    Classify the words/sentences in 2 groups: Easy / Difficult linguistic, intrapersonal
    Play a board game and read sentences / pronounce words linguistic, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal
    Decipher / cipher coded messages logical, linguistic
    Noughts and crosses linguistic, logical, spatial
    Find and colour each animal’s house on the map spatial, linguistic
    Write sentences and situate them on the map linguistic, spatial
    Decorate the maps natural, bodily-kinaesthetic, linguistic
    Make plasticine figures bodily-kinaesthetic
    Act out the dialogues linguistic, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal

    table 3
    Notes
    Throughout the course the pupils were asked to consider what words or sentences they find easy and what – difficult; what activities they find entertaining; boring; easy or difficult. They were not made to take part in activities they felt anxious about. However, when they saw that the others were having a good time and were advancing, they joined in.
    All the pupils were thrilled when the maps were presented to them. They enjoyed colouring and decorating the maps and making animals of plasticine.
    The pupils particularly liked the board games. In fact, one of the classes wanted to play each lesson, which, of course, was impossible.
    Although some of the pupils had already heard the story, all of them enjoyed listening to it in English and prompting the teacher what to say. They were fascinated by the book, wanted to hold it, turn its pages, look at the illustrations. They felt extremely proud that they were able to recognize words and even read some sentences in a real English book. As the course was advancing, more and more students were coming with different editions of A. Milne’s book translated in Bulgarian. They were reading them at home, looking for Bulgarian equivalents of the sentences they had already learned, comparing the illustrations. I found this interest of theirs, togetherwith the language they acquired, extremely stimulating and rewarding.
    At the end of the first term the children were asked to fill in another questionnaire about the course activities they liked most (table 2).

    I like I like I don’t know I don’t like
    Underlining words
    Reading sentences from flashcards
    Arranging mixed sentences in a dialogue
    Reading sentences aloud with the class
    Playing boardgames
    Arranging mixed letters in words
    Arranging mixed words in sentences
    Playing noughts and crosses
    Colouring the houses in the map
    Colouring the map
    Decorating the map
    Making plasticine figures
    Writing and sticking sentences
    Reading and playing with figures
    Looking through the book
    Singing in English

    table 2
    Their preferences are shown in chart 2. As a whole, more than 50 % of the students enjoyed all the activities, with the board games and colouring and decorating the map their most favourite and arranging mixed words and letters and writing sentences on the maps their least favourite. Yet, the percentage of the pupils who did not like the writing activities from the course is lower than that of the pupils who stated they disliked writing in the first questionnaire, which proved my efforts worthwhile.

    chart 2

    It was interesting to see whether the application of MI theory resulted in better language performance. Therefore,after the summer holiday the children were tested in: reading aloud sentences from the story; arranging mixed sentences in dialogues; finishing incomplete sentences; arranging mixed words in sentences and mixed letters in words; matching words to corresponding pictures. The results of their tests were compared to the results of the tests of a control group. The control group consisted of 22 children at the same age from the same school. They had the same number of lessons during the past two years and used the same course book. There was no special course for them, the teacher simply did more exercises on the language from the course book. Their test consisted of the same tasks with different vocabulary. The results of the tests are shown in chart 3. The children from the project group were definitely better at reading aloud. The results of the other tasks are not so categorical. Still, they show that the children who participated in the project were slightly better at the test as a whole. Was their performance more successfulbecause of the MI-informed activities I used? There is not enough evidence to draw a definite conclusion but a further research into this field could be considered.
    chart 3

    In conclusion, I would like to say that the implementation of MI theory in English classes might seem a little complicated. Nevertheless, I think it is worth a try. The positive feedback we will get from our students will make for it.


    Bibliography

    Gardner, H. (1999).Intelligence reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st century. New York: .Basic Books
    Brumfit, C.J., J. Mood and R. Ton (eds.) 1991 Teaching English to children: From practice to principle. London: Harper and Collins

    In Search of Quality in Class – Mission (Im)Possible?

    Written by: Svetlana Dimitrova, PhD (NBU),
    Svetlana Tashevska (NBU)
    and Georgi Geshev (University of Plovdiv) [toc class=”toc-right”]
    Abstract: Our conference workshop presented the outcome of a partnership project with British Council – Bulgaria, geared towards improving the quality of foreign language teaching through (self-)assessment of classroom practices. This followed up a presentation at the previous BETA Conference [1] of the same project at the stage of piloting the instruments and the videoed sample lessons from the training pack under development.
    This time the participants were offered a chance to try out the product of the Quality in Foreign Language Teaching (QIFLT) project – a training pack containing tools for observation and evaluation of classroom practice of foreign language teachers and a selection of representative English lessons. They went through the experience of observing one of the latter – a lesson that they might have taught and role-playing the post-lesson discussion, stepping in the shoes of the teacher/ the observer in view of improving their professional performance and FLT classroom practice. The feedback collected during the plenary at the end of the session shed useful light on the application of the assessment criteria and the way the pack could benefit the work of both practising teachers and ministry experts.

    The project

    The QIFLT project aimed at implementing and sustaining quality in teaching foreign languages through creating a set of unified criteria for observation and evaluation of classroom practices of foreign language teachers at secondary schools in Bulgaria. The project was initiated in response to the need for changes in the routine ways of EFL teaching established during recent research [2] and the general European tendencies for developing common standards for assessment of professional performance and promoting continuous professional development.
    The core team of the project consisted of 9 professionals [3] representing different regions of the country, as well as various levels of the educational system (schools, universities, education inspectorates) and professional positions – teachers, experts, methodologists, mentors, teacher-trainers, directors of studies. However, the final product of the project reflects the experience and owes a lot to the contribution of many other colleagues, both Bulgarian and international, among which there were specialists in the teaching of other foreign languages too. Dr Desmond Thomas of the University of London deserves a special mention here having acted as our main consultant throughout all the stages of the project. Work under the QIFLT project spanned over the period October 2003 – January 2006, including activities like analysis of a wide range of existing documents for evaluating foreign language teaching, drafting a set of assessment criteria followed by large scale piloting and standardizing, continuous revision of the product in the light of feedback, videoing of sample classroom practices and designing a training pack (in both English and Bulgarian) to accompany the assessment tools.
    We believe that the outcome of the project could be of great practical value to foreign language experts at the Ministry of Education and Science in helping them to objectively evaluate the performance of secondary school FL teachers in the light of professional standards. The materials from the pack can also be used by practising secondary school teachers for their own professional development through self-reflection and self-assessment. In pre-service teacher training, it can provide a tangible goal for student-teachers and teacher-educators (mentors, methodologists, etc.) [4].

    The product and its application

    The training pack consists of several components.

    1. The Assessment criteria for observation of classroom practice of teachers of foreign languages (Form No.1), comprising a number of indicators and descriptors for quality, will help the user to:
      1. identify the essential features of the observed lesson (i.e. see more clearly when observing) and compare them to the benchmark classroom practices required from teachers of foreign languages in Bulgarian secondary schools;
      2. report on the quality of the foreign language teacher’s performance.
      3. They are organized in three main areas: Professional Characteristics of the teacher, The Lesson and Classroom Management. The descriptors are further subdivided into two types: essential features and extra features. The former are deemed as most important and expected to be present in good language teaching practice. The latter reflect the belief that quality teaching should include more than the minimum.
    2. The Classroom practice observation schedule (Form No.2) is a tool for recording impressions during and/or immediately after the lesson. It contains a teaching-context information box, a section with a descriptor checklist and room for comments on each of the three areas from the criteria, and an overall comments box. The schedule focuses the observer’s attention on the essential features but it also allows for free comments on the extra features (not listed on the form), if considered necessary.
    3. The Guidelines for the use of the assessment criteria are meant to help in making sense of the tools in the pack and give practical advice for their most effective use.
    4. The Glossary of terms used is a useful reference to some of the most frequently used specialized terminology.
    5. The Bibliography comprises documents which have been reviewed and analysed by the team in the process of developing the set of assessment criteria, relevant key titles from the background methodology literature and project-related publications by team members.

    The tools are supplemented by Appendices which contain the following:
    checklists for the three video-recorded lessons, each including a commentary on the lesson with links to descriptors, a lesson plan with copies of teaching materials, post-lesson teacher self-evaluation comments;
    completed observation schedules for each of the three videoed lessons to serve as an illustration of its application;
    video material (on DVD) presenting a selection of English language classroom practices (from three lessons) that illustrate some of the descriptors of quality foreign language teaching. [5]

    The workshop

    The participants were involved in a practical activity – a role-play where they observed a part of a video-recorded lesson (stages III and IV of lesson 3), and then held a post-lesson discussion, focusing on one area of the teacher’s classroom practice in particular – that of classroom management. The participants were divided into pairs and roles were distributed:
    Role A: the teacher from the video
    Role B: the observer
    Before the observation the teachers (role A) familiarized themselves with the lesson plan of the teacher from the video, while the observers (role B) were introduced to the lesson context and the outline of the lesson content. Their main task was to study the tools, concentrating on the Classroom Management section from the Assessment Criteria (Form No.1) and the Observation Schedule (Form No.2) respectively.
    Then the excerpt from the video recording was played. After the observation, the participants were given the following tasks for role-playing the post-lesson discussion:
    Teachers (Role A): Try to step in the shoes of this teacher – this is your lesson / activity. Reflect on the strong and weak aspects of your teaching. Try to be open and constructive in the post lesson discussion with your observer.
    Observers (Role B): Choose 2-3 positive aspects that you would like to comment on and 1-2 problematic areas for improvement. Try to elicit possible reasons and suggestions for improvement / future action.
    The pairs were given 10 minutes for the role-play of the post-lesson discussion. This replicates the real-life situation where teachers, in their busy schedules, rarely have a longer interval between classes to discuss their teaching and development.
    After the role play, plenary feedback was collected both on the lesson and the applicability of the tools. The participants were invited to reflect on the following questions:

    • On the lesson and the benefit of the exercise
    1. Which were the positive aspects of the lesson that you discussed? Did you both (teacher and observer) consider the same positive aspects important?
    2. Which were the aspects for improvement that you discussed? Did you agree?
    • On the benefit of the tool and its applicability for maintaining quality
    1. Did the tool help you (observers) organize your observation and see more clearly?
    2. Did it help you in focusing the discussion?
    3. Did it help you formulate your comments and structure the feedback?
    4. Did you (teachers) find the feedback informed by the assessment criteria clear, relevant, helpful, etc.?

    Feedback and comments by participants

    Finally, we would like to share some of the feedback we elicited from our participants and outline some implications for the future use of the assessment tools as well as for the conducting of training sessions with potential users.
    Among the features the participants unanimously considered as examples of good practice in the target area (classroom management) were:

    1. the efficient organization of the classroom activities (including the layout of the tables and the seating arrangements) leading to the involvement of all students all the time and simulation of communicating in real-life situations,
    2. the variety of interaction patterns,
    3. the use of supporting realia,
    4. the clear instructions
    5. the good use of the whiteboard to record feedback,
    6. the relevant praise of students, and
    7. “finishing the lesson off nicely”.

    These observations coincide with the lesson analysis of the project team (see the Commentary section, pp. 36-38).
    Some of the suggested improvements were:

    1. providing closer monitoring of individual pairs during the role-play,
    2. giving the floor to spokespersons from the groups of doctors/ patients to report on the agreement reached by their group about the best doctor and worst-case patient,
    3. organizing an open-pair performance of the best doctor and the worse-case patient.

    Despite the fact that the feedback questions in the second set were somewhat leading, they still elicited valuable responses supported by arguments and thus proved effective under the circumstances (as most of the participants had never acted as experts and catalysts of professional development).
    Comments on the applicability of the tools included the following:

    • “it [Form No.1] gives you specific points to focus on, to look back and reflect on”;
    • “it helped to pick out relevant points”;
    • “it directs [the observer] in noticing some problematic aspects”;
    • “it makes the agenda of the observer transparent [for the observed teacher], if provided in advance … thus stress is reduced”;
    • “it serves as a reminder of methodology points”.

    Although the participants did not actually use the tools during the observation or the discussion, they acknowledged their usefulness during the preparation for the post-lesson discussion, as can be seen from their comments as well. Both ‘observers’ and ‘teachers’ emphasized on the need for familiarizing themselves with the assessment criteria in advance if they were to be put to optimal use. This could probably explain why the participants preferred to stick to Form No.1 only. In spite of the limited time for getting to know the tools, the participants saw their value for helping them to see more clearly and for focusing the post-lesson discussion. As most of the participants were practising or student-teachers, they could appreciate the potential of the pack (incl. the videoed sample lessons and the training activities implied in it)  for professional development.

    Observations for future training

    As far as subsequent training of potential users is concerned, the time dedicated will naturally need to be extended so as to provide opportunities for trying out the whole set of assessment criteria applied to at least one complete sample lesson. The presentation at the conference aimed only at giving a ‘flavour’ of the training pack documents and implied activities. A training session with ministry of education experts would ideally build in ample time for careful study of the tools before inviting users to apply them, as well as for analysis and reflection on what has been observed. Such a session would also provide a forum for comments, questions and suggestions, leading to personalized ways of employing the tools and to standardizing quality-in-FLT assessment procedures.
    Finally, we believe that the mission of implementing and sustaining quality in foreign language classrooms is a common responsibility for both the teacher, seeking professional improvement and the expert, externally assessing language teaching and learning. The success of that mission depends on the combined efforts of all parties involved.


    [1] Velikova, S., Stefanova, E. and Geshev, G. (2005) “Be the Expert”, 14th BETA-IATEFL Conference, Sofia
    [2] Thomas D., Dimitrova S., Geshev G. and Tashevska S. (eds.) (2002) A Baseline Survey of English Language Teacher Education in Bulgaria, 2001-2002, Sofia: British Council Bulgaria
    [3] The members of the team in alphabetical order: Elena Stefanova, Regional Inspectorate of MES, Vidin; George Geshev, University of Plovdiv; Irina Ivanova, University of Shoumen; Mariana Iordanova, First English Language School, Sofia; Svetlana Dimitrova, New Bulgarian University, Sofia; Svetlana Tashevska, New Bulgarian University, Sofia; Sylvia Velikova, University of Veliko Turnovo; Tsvetelina Harakchiyska, English Language School, Rousse; Valentina Angelova, University of Shoumen, Department for Information and In-service Teacher Training, Varna.
    [4] More information about the project can be found at www.britishcouncil.org/bulgaria or by contacting library.sofia@britishcouncil.bg and QIFLTmembers@yahoogroups.com .
    [5] The participants in the workshop were only familiarized with the assessment tools – Forms No.1 and No.2, which they applied to lesson No. 3 from the DVD.