Chicklit, Ladlit and Toby Litt: The Current State of British Prose and Poetry

Presented by David A. Hill [toc class=”toc-right”]


1a)  The Elders (‘literature’)

Michael Frayn (1933) Spies (2002) [Whitbread Best Novel Prize] ; David Lodge (1935) Author, Author (2004) ; James Kelman (1946) You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free (2004); Jim Crace (1946 ) Six (2003) ; Julian Barnes (1946) Love, etc. (2000); Ian McEwan (1948) Saturday (2005) [W H Smith Literary Award]; Martin Amis (1949) Yellow Dog (2003) ; Graham Swift (1949 ) The Light of Day (2003) ; Helen Dunmore (1952) Mourning Ruby (2003) [+ Poetry] ; Tim Parks (1954) Rapids (2005) ; Alan Hollinghurst (1954) The Line of Beauty (2004) [Booker Prize] ; Sally Vickers (1954) Mr Golightly’s Holiday (2003) ; John Burnside (1955) Living Nowhere (2003) [+ Poetry] ; Adam Thorpe (1956) No Telling (2003) [+ Poetry] ; Nick Hornby (1957) How To Be Good (2001) [W H Smith Fiction Prize] ; Tibor Fischer (1959) Journey to the End of the Room (2003)

1b) The Youngers (‘literature’)

Gerard Woodward (1961) I’ll Go to Bed at Noon (2004) [+ Poetry] ; Jonathan Coe (1961) The Closed Circle (2004) ; Jill Dawson (1962) Wild Boy (2003) ; Philip Hensher (1965) The Fit (2004) [GR03] ; A. L. Kennedy (1965) Paradise (2004) [GR03] ; Zoe Heller (1965) Notes on a Scandal (2003) ; Nicola Barker (1966 ) Clear: A Transparent Novel (2004) [GR03] ; David Peace (1967) GB 84 (2004) [GR03]; Toby Litt (1968 ) Ghosts (2005) [GR03]; David Mitchell (1969) Cloud Atlas (2003) [GR03]; Tobias Hill (1970) The Cryptographer. (2003) [+ Poetry] ; Dan Rhodes (1972) Timoleon Vieta Come Home (2002) [GR03]; Matt Thorne (1974) Cherry (2005); Zadie Smith (1975) The Autograph Man (2002) [GR03] ; Jon McGregor (1976) If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002) [Betty Trask Prize] ; Anne Donovan (19??) Buddha Da (2003); Helen Walsh (1977) Brass (2004)

2) Short Stories (Single author collections)

Susan Hill (1942) The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read (2003) ; A.S.Byatt (1936) Little Black Book of Stories (2003) ; Julian Barnes (1946) The Lemon Table (2004); Patricia Duncker (1951) Seven Tales of Sex and Death (2003) ; Alexei Sayle (1952) The Dog Catcher (2002) ; Helen Simpson (1959) Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (2000); Jackie Kay (1961) Why Don’t You Stop Talking? (2002) [+ Poetry] ; Ali Smith (1962) The Whole Story and Other Stories (2003) ; Philip Hensher (1965) The Bedroom of the Mister’s Wife (2000); Toby Litt (1968) Exhibitionism (2002) [GR03] ; Dan Rhodes (1972) Don’t Tell Me the Truth about Love (2000) [GR03]; Anne Donovan (19??) Hieroglyphics and Other Stories (2001)

3a) Chicklit

Helen Fielding (1960) Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) [Film] ; Adele Parks (1969) Still Thinking of You (2004) ; Jenny Colgan (1971) Do You Remember The First Time? (2003) ; India Knight (19??) Don’t You Want Me? (2002); Sophie Kinsella (19  ) Shopaholic and Sister (2004) ; Allison Pearson (19??) I Don’t Know How She Does It (2002) ; Marian Keyes (19??) The Other Side of the Story (2004) ; Carmen Reid (19??) Did The earth Move? (2003); Anna Maxted Being Committed (2004)

3b) Ladlit

Tony Parsons (1954) The Family Way (2004) ; Tim Lott (1956) The Love Secrets of Don Juan (2003); Matt Dunn (1966) Best Man (2005); Mike Gayle (19??) His ‘n’ Hers (2004) ; John O’Farrell (19??) This Is Your Life (2002) ; Mark Barrowcliffe (19??) Lucky Dog (2004); Matt Whyman (19??) Columbia Road (2002)

4a) Themes: Man and Boy

Tony Parsons (1954) Man and Boy (1999 ) ; Nick Hornby (1957) About and Boy (1998) [Film] ; Simon Armitage (1963) Little Green Man (2001) [+ Poetry] ; John O’Farrell (19??) The Best a Man Can Get (2000) ; Mark Barrowcliffe (19??) Infidelity for First Time Fathers (2001 ) ; Dave Hill (19??) Dad’s Life (2003)

4b) Themes: Multiracial Britain

Andrea Levy (1956) Small Island (2003) [Orange Prize/ Whitbread Prize] ; Meera Syal (1962) Life isn’t all ha ha he he (1999) ; Monica Ali (1968) Brick Lane (2003) [W H Smith People’s Choice Award] [GR03] ; Zadie Smith (1975) White Teeth (2000) [Guardian First Book Award; W H Smith Best New Talent Award] [GR03]; Nadeem Aslam (1967) Maps for Lost Lovers (2004); Francis King (19??) The Nick of Time (2003)

4c) Themes: the Bildungsroman

Michael Frayn (1933) Spies (2003) ; Seamus Deane (1940) Reading in the Dark (1996)[+ Poetry] ;
Julia Darling (1956) The Taxi Driver’s Daughter (2003) ; Roddy Doyle (1958) Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993) [1993 Booker Prize] ; Andrew O’Hagan (1968) Personality (2003) [GR03] ; Toby Litt (1968) deadkidsongs (2001) [GR03]; Helen Falconer (19??) Sky High (2003)

4d) Themes: Literary/Artistic Lives

Michael Frayn (1933) Headlong (1999) [Breughel] ; Beryl Bainbridge (1935) According to Queeney (2001) [Samuel Johnson] ; David Lodge (1935) Author, Author (2004) [Henry James] ; Emma Tennant (1937) The Ballad of Sylvia and Ted (2001) [Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes] ; Peter Ackroyd (1949) The Lambs of London (2004) [Charles & Eliza Lamb] ; Andrew Motion (1952) The Invention of Dr. Cake (2003) [John Cake/William Tabor] [+ Poetry] ; Colm Toibin (1955) The Master (2004) [Henry James]; Tracey Chevalier (1962) Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999) (Film) [Vermeer] ; Will Self (1961) Dorian: an Imitation (2002) [Dorian Gray] ; C K Stead (19??) Mansfield: A Novel (2004)

4e) Themes: The New Technology

Jeanette Winterson (1959) The PowerBook (2000) ; Jesica Adams (19??) Single White e-mail (1998)
Matt Beaumont (19??) e  (2000); Matt Whyman (19??) Man or Mouse (2000)


1) The Elders

Michael Hamburger (1924) Wild and Wounded (2004) ; Elizabeth Bartlett (1924) Mrs Perkins and Oedipus (2004) ; Charles Tomlinson (1927) Skywriting (2004) ; Peter Porter (1929) Afterburner (2004) ; Anthony Thwaite (1930) A Move in the Weather (2003) ; Adrian Mitchell (1932) All Shook Up (2000) [PBS Rec] ; Geoffrey Hill (1932) The Orchards of Syon (2002) [PBS Choice] ; Anne Stevenson (1933) A Report from the Border (2003) [PBS Rec] ; Tony Harrison (1937) Laureate’s Block (2000) ; John Fuller (1937) Now and for a Time (2002) ; Gillian Clarke (1937) Making Beds for the Dead (2004);
Roger McGough (1937) Everyday Eclipses (2002) ; Seamus Heaney (1939) Electric Light (2001) [PBS Choice] ; Michael Longley (1939) Snow Water (2003) [PBS Choice] ; Douglas Dunn (1942) The Year’s Aftenoon (2000) [PBS Choice]

2) The Middlers

Eavan Boland (1944) Code (2001) ; Carol Rumens (1944) Hex (2002) [PBS Rec] ; Wendy Cope (1945) If I Don’t Know (2001) ; Bernard O’Donoghue (1945) Outliving (2002) ; Selima Hill (1945) Lou-Lou (200) [PBS Rec] ; Peter Reading (1946) [untitled] (2001) ; George Szirtes (1948) Reel (2004) [PBS Choice] [Whitbread Prize]; Ciaran Carson (1948) Breaking News (2003);  Paul Muldoon (1951) Moy Sand and Gravel (2002) [PBS Choice] ; Andrew Motion (1952) Public Property (2003) [Poet Laureate] ; Matthew Sweeney (1952)  Sanctuary (2004) ; Carol Ann Duffy (1955) Feminine Gospels (2002) [PBS Rec] ; John Burnside (1955) The Light Trap (2001) [PBS Rec] ; Jamie McKendrick (1955) Ink Stone (2003) [PBS Rec] ; Adam Thorpe (1956) Nine Lessons from the Dark (2003) ; Benjamin Zephaniah (1958) Too Black, Too Strong (2001) ; Lavinia Greenlaw (1962 ) Minsk (2003) [PBS Rec] ; Kathleen Jamie (1962) The Tree House (2004) [PBS Choice] ; Don Patterson (1963) Landing Light (2003) [T S Eliot Prize] [PBS Choice] ; Michael Symmons Roberts (1963) Corpus (2004) [PBS Rec]; Simon Armitage (1963) The Universal Home Doctor (2003) [PBS Rec] ; Kate Clanchy (1965) Newborn (2004) [PBS Rec] ; Glyn Maxwell (1968) The Nerve (2002) [PBS Rec] ; Ruth Padel (19??) The Soho Leopard (2004) [PBS Choice] ; Alice Oswald (19??) Dart (2002) [T S Eliot Prize] [PBS Rec]

3) The Youngers

Paul Farley (1965) The Ice Age (2002) [Second] [PBS Choice] [2002 Whitbread Poetry Prize] ; Tracey Herd (1968) Dead Redhead (2001) [Second] [PBS Rec] ; Polly Clark (1968) Kiss (2000) [Second] ; Kona Macphee (1968) Tails (2004) [First] ; Matthew Welton (1969) The Book of Matthew (2003) [First] [PBS Rec] ; Julia Copus (1969) In Defence of Adultery (2003) [Second] ; Helen Ivory (1969) The Double Life of Clocks (2002) [First] ; Jane Griffiths (1970) A Grip on Thin Air (2000) [First] ; Joanne Limburg (1970) femenismo (2000) [First] ; Colette Bryce(1970) The Full Indian Rope Trick (2004) [Second] [PBS Rec]; Matthew Hollis (1971) Ground Water (2003) [First] [PBS Rec] ; Antony Dunn (1973) Flying Fish (2002) [Second] ; Leontia Flynn (1974) These Days (2004) [First] [PBS Rec] ; Owen Shears (1974) The Blue Book (2000) [First] ; Jacob Polley (1975) The Brink (2003) [First] [PBS Choice] ; Clare Pollard (1978) Bedtime (2002)  [Second] ; Cheryl Follon (1978) All Your Talk (2004) [First] ; Henry Shukman (19??) In Dr No’s Garden (2002) [First] [+ novel]


  • In Prose Sections  1a), 1b) and 2) the novels/story collections given are the most recent ones published by the authors. In 2) the collections are all single author collections.
  • In the thematic Prose sections, the books listed are the relevant ones.
  • In all three Poetry sections the books listed are the latest ones.
  • In all sections the authors are arranged by year of birth (in brackets after the name) where known. The other date is the year of publication.
  • Further information is given in [square brackets] : prizes won; in the Poetry sections, where the book was a Poetry Book Society Choice or Recommendation; in Prose Section 4d the name of the real person who the book is about; in Poetry section 3, whether it is the First or Second collection published.
  • The division of the Poetry sections into Elders/Middles/Youngsters is more to do with when and how much the poets have published, rather than actual date of birth.
  • The division of  Prose section 1 into a) and b) was made at 1960.
  • [GR03] means that an author was chosen as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003.

This is neither an exhaustive nor complete list of all the names/works which there could be, however it is a representative selection, and includes those writers I consider to be among the most important.

Reference Books

The following books may be useful for anyone wishing to look at the period under discussion.
Connor S (1996) The English Novel in History 1950-1995.

(London: Routledge)

Draper R P (1999) An Introduction to Twentith-Century Poetry in English.

(Basingstoke: Macmillan)

Gasiorek A (1995) Post-War British Fiction: Realism and After.

(London: Arnold)

Jack I (Ed)  (2003) Best Of Young British Novelists 2003

(London: Granta)

Head D (2002) The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Herbert W N/ Hollis M (Eds) (2000) Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry.

(Tarset: Bloodaxe Books)

Kennedy D (1996) New Relations: the refashioning of British poetry 1980-94.

(Bridgend: Seren)

Lane R et al (Eds) (2003) Contemporary British Fiction.

(Cambridge: Polity Press)

O’Brien S (1998) The Deregulated Muse: esaays on contemporary British and Irish poetry.

(Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books)

Padel R (2002) 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem.

(London: Chatto & Windus)

Tew P (2004) The Contemporary British Novel.

(London: Continuum)

Thorne M/Blincoe N (Eds) All Hail The new Puritans.

(London: 4th Estate)

Thwaite A ((1985) Poetry Today: A Critical Guide to British Poetry 1960-84.

(Harlow: Longman)

Verdonk P (Ed) (1993) Twentieth –Century Poetry: from text to context.

(London: Routledge)


What is Chicklit?

In the late 1990s, when Bridget Jones’s Diary and a plethora of other novels about female insecurity were emerging, women’s lack of confidence was beginniing to seem like a global epidemic. I thought that it had a lot to do with with the explosion of images of perfection in movies and advertising.
A hundred years ago, a woman in a rural community might have had one or two attractive local beauties to compare herself to. But in the latter half of the 20th century, women were bombarded with images of perfection, and not real perfection either; painstakingly lighted, airbrushed, computer-enhanced moments that never existed in the first place.
(Helen Fielding: Never mind your bottom in  The Daily Telegraph 04.09.04)

The term “chicklit”, with its post-feminist use of the word “chick” and its sing-song almost-rhyme, originated as a way of describing young women’s fiction of any sort. Now its specifically means a “fun”, pastel-covered novel with a young, female, city-based protagonist, who has a kooky best friend, and evil boss, romantic troubles and a desire to find The One – the apparently unavailable man who is good-looking, can cook and is both passionate and considerate in bed.
(Scarlett Thomas: The great chick lit conspiracy in The Independent on Sunday 04.08.02)

What is Ladlit?

….the essentials of Ladlit have always been constant. You need one or all of the following: sport, music, friendship, children, work, where you fit in society, what being a man means. And, of course, you need women. How to get ’em, how to shed ’em, how to deal with ’em generally, them being creatures from another planet and all. The problems in Ladlit always come women-shaped…the solutions to this lady trouble are not always pleasant.
Still, men treating women badly is no news, really. What’s more interesting is the way these men, these characters, deal with it. Certain writers – like Hornby and Welsh – have a strong feminist streak. Their heroes might dish the dirty, but their female counterparts chuck it right back at them: their women characters are often stronger, more honest, better at dealing with things than the useless men thatsurround them. …the women in Ladlit books..might not be politically correct, but at least they give as good as they get, and aren’t always moaning about ‘finding the right man’.
……there is romance in these novels. It’s just that it’s a male sort of romance. A sliding scale that has wanting to be a shag-happy popstar at one end, and wanting to be a husband and father at the other. A rock ‘n’ roll romance. Recently this sliding scale has tipped more towards the role than the rock. Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons, John O’Farrell all deal with man as father….
The best thing about Ladlit is this: it may not be perfect, but ut does try to find truth, to be honest and unpretentious. I think this is why we all think of it as almost-fiction; why we assume each author is writing about himself, as opposed to creating his characters. We think it’s effortless, like jotting down a diary. The fact that these books use everyday language adds to this impression, as does the recognisable places in which they’re set.
(Miranda Sawyer: How to Understand Men in Waterstone’s Books Quarterly, 2003)

David A. Hill has had the following poetry and prose published:
Poetry:                   The Eagles and the Sun (1986: Prosveta, Niš)
The Judas Tree (1993: Collina Press, Milan)
Singing to Seals (1999: The Collective Press, Abergavenny)
Short Stories:         A Matter of Chance (1999: Cambridge University Press)
How I Met Myself (2001: Cambridge University Press)
The Boy (2004 in Pulverness A/Moses A (Eds) The Outsider. ELI, Recanati)
Why Didn’t You Tell Me (2004: WorldWide Readers at

Action Research: The Teacher as Researcher in the EFL Classroom

Written by: Dr. Ryan James, Ed.D.
E-mail –
American Council for English Studies (ACES) – Hungary
Because this writing is long and uses advanced formatting, it’s only available for download: MS Word .DOC format | Adobe .PDF format

Phonemic Awareness for Young Learners

Written by: Tsvetelina Harakchiyska
University of Rousse, Because this writing is long and uses advanced formatting, it’s also available for download in MS Word .DOC format
Foreign language education in the recent years in Europe and across the world is orientated towards the new requirements and methods of language teaching and learning which focus on the development of students’ communicative language competence. This means that the aim of foreign language education is the development of speakers of a language who no longer possess “mastery” of one or two or even three languages but who are linguistically and socio-culturally competent. This new dimension of language learning finds expression in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (2001) which presents the general and communicative competences a learner should possess, the different levels of learner achievement and the criteria for evaluation and assessment of language learners.
Still in order to become interculturally and linguistically competent foreign language learners should acquire the linguistic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences which would allow them to organize, systematize, use and assimilate the new language items and deal with the social dimensions of language. This, however, could be achieved only if language learners are able to auditory discriminate and produce the phonemes of the target language, to correctly associate a foreign language phoneme with its grapheme and to resolve a continuous stream of sounds into a meaningful structured string of phonemes. All these skills, which are part of phonemic awareness, would allow a learner to read and write correctly in the target language, to understand other speakers of the language and to be able to interact with them using coherent and well-structured statements. Therefore, the aim of the current paper is to explore the opportunities for phonemic awareness training in grade three and four English language curricula in Bulgaria and to give some practical ideas on how to make phonemic awareness easy and fun in the foreign language classroom.
Phonemic awareness
Before we immerse ourselves in the exploration of the above mentioned English language school curricula, it is worth turning our attention to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (2001) which provides a common basis for foreign language curricula development and which states the strategic components directly related to phonemic awareness, i.e. the phonetic competence and the phonological knowledge and skills to be acquired by a language learner (Table 1).
Table 1 General phonetic awareness and skills and phonological competence[1]

  • an ability to distinguish and produce unfamiliar sounds and prosodic patterns;
  • an ability to perceive and catenate unfamiliar sound sequences;
  • an ability, as a listener, to resolve (i.e. divide into distinct and significant parts) a continuous stream of sound into a meaningful structured string of phonological elements;
  • an understanding / mastery of the process of sound perception and production applicable to the new language learning
Involves the knowledge of, and skills in the perception and production of:

  • the sound units (phonemes) of the language and their realization in particular contexts (allophones)
    • the phonetic features which distinguish phonemes (distinctive features, e.g. voicing, rounding, nasality, plosion);
    • the phonetic composition of words (syllable structure, the sequence of phonemes, word stress, word tones);
    • sentence phonetics (prosody) – sentence stress and rhythm, intonation

As seen from the contents of Table 1 language learners should possess not only knowledge of the phonological system of the target language, but also the ability to segment and manipulate the sounds of speech – skills that are included in phonemic awareness instruction which “is more complex than auditory discrimination [i.e. hearing a difference]… [and which] entails a level of analysis of the constituent sounds of a word” (Hempenstall 2003). Or in other words, students are expected to be able to auditory discriminate the phonemes within syllables and words in English and recognize and identify single phonemes and their allophones in a word or sentence. Therefore, it can be said that phonemic awareness builds links between auditory sounds and the letters by which they are represented and is related to the structure of words rather than to their meaning. In fact, phonemic awareness provides learners with the abilities to compare and contrast phonemes, to “play” with the sounds of English, to correctly articulate them and increases their “ability of decoding and spelling words and … [of] comprehend[ing] text” (National Reading Panel 2001:12). That is why, phonemic awareness training accounts for the development of the four skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Figure 1: Phonemic awareness and the four skills
Phonemic awareness and school curricula
Having explained what phonemic awareness is I would like to draw attention to grade 3 and grade 4 English language school curricula approved by the Ministry of Education and Science in Bulgaria. The reason for focusing on these two curricula is motivated by the fact that in grade 1 and 2 Bulgarian learners of English receive the initial knowledge in their native language and in English while in grade 3 and 4 the acquisition of English involves the complex development of the four skills.
The first thing that should be mentioned is that the curricula in question correspond to the requirements of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (2001) – “the focus of English language instruction is not so much on the acquisition of the language but on the increase of learners’ knowledge of other cultures, on the development of their skills for intercultural communication, intellectual and linguistic abilities” (Information about the degree of readiness for the introduction of foreign language teaching in the primary (grade 2) during the 2002 – 2003 school year: 1). Still it can be said that phonemic awareness and phonological instruction are not largely included in the curriculum. What is more, there is a very sharp contrast between the Aims of the curricula and the “Specific methods and forms of assessment” stated there (Table 3).
Table 2: Aims and Specific methods and forms of assessment


The learning of English would allow pupils to:
Specific methods and forms of assessment
Grade 3 be able to understand texts while reading or listening emphasis is placed on the clarity and correctness of pupils’ speech as this is the period when correct pronunciation skills are developed – skills of articulation and speech production
Grade 4 develop basic strategies for interaction in English

It is difficult to explain how pupils would acquire knowledge and skills for successful communication in English when only Nucleus “Listening” of the two curricula contains phonetic and phonological knowledge and skills, which in turn are related to the acquisition of  “basic rules for pronunciation”, “basic intonation patterns”, “word stress” (see English language curricula for grade 3 and 4, Nucleus “Speaking”) which suggests that the only focus of attention in phonemic awareness instruction are pronunciation and the acquisition of rhythm and the specific models of intonation of the English sentence.
Such orientation of English language teaching, in which auditory discrimination and sound identification activities are omitted, is a prerequisite for problems in the process of auditory perception and articulation of the foreign sounds. A key factor for these problems will be the absence of correctly formed auditory images of the new phonemes, of new sound model zones in the mind of the learners that correlate to the phonemes of the target language. This would prevent learners from identifying the auditory perceived phonemes which in turn would lead to incorrect pronunciation of English language sounds due to the fact that only those “qualities of sounds which can be transformed in articulation are encoded” (Tsoneva 2002:13).
Another disturbing point is the stated in Nucleus “Speaking” expected result according to which pupils should use “simple language and simple sentences when speaking and also pronunciation and intonation that do not interrupt communication”[2]. Still it is difficult to explain how pupils would be able to build and develop correct pronunciation skills in English when they have not developed good listening skills so that they could properly perceive the new phonemes. Furthermore, the underestimation of sound recognition activities could lead to pupils’ problems in reading in English and thus the results stated in the Nucleus “Reading” would be difficult to achieve because students who fail to relate sounds to graphemes would have difficulties in reading.  Therefore, statements in the curricula like “the learner could read aloud and has pronunciation and intonation that do not prevent the understanding of short, elementary level texts that are written for the purposes of language instruction and that cover the studied topics”[3] are a desired rather than an achievable result when these curricula are applied.
As it comes clear from the analysis of the English language curricula for grades 3 and 4 phonemic awareness instruction and phonological training do not receive an appropriate treatment in the educational documentation explored. This could lead to incorrect pronunciation, low level of reading, writing, speaking and listening in the target language. The new trends of development of language education in Europe impose new objectives and methods of language instruction and the inclusion of phonological competences and phonemic knowledge and skills. Therefore, in order to increase the quality of English language teaching and learning in Bulgaria, primary school curricula of English should include and recognize the importance of phonological and phonemic awareness.
How to develop phonemic awareness?
The basic question that this paper aims to answer is “How to develop phonemic awareness skills in young learners of English?”. Some authors (Fox and Routh, Ehri, Lieberman, Fisher and Carter) claim that the development of these skills should happen in the following order: rhyming, alliteration, segmenting sentences into words, followed by segmenting words into syllables, followed by segmenting words into phonemes. Others like Terry Starko (Starko 2000) state that the process of phonemic awareness skills development should begin with rhyming, alliteration, phoneme blending, sound segmentation and phoneme manipulation. But no matter which principles of phonemic awareness development teachers of English choose to follow, they should take into consideration the following guidelines for planning phonemic awareness activities (after Edelen-Smith 1998:104):

  1. Identify the phoneme awareness task you want to use and select appropriate activities for engaging students in the task. Choose activities that are fun and involve playing rather than drilling.
  2. Focus the attention of learners on the sounds not on the letters. Explain to students that in English one sound may be represented by two or more letters. You may first want to target on the auditory perception of a specific sound and then on its production.
  3. Bear in mind that continuant sounds like /i: / or /a:/ are easier to manipulate and hear than stop consonants like /p/ or /b/ for example. “When you introduce continuants, exaggerate by holding on them: rrrrrring; for stop consonants, use iteration (rapid repetition):/k/-/k/-/k/-/k/-/k/-atie” (Edelen-Smith 2000:104)
  4. “When identifying or combining sound sequences, a CV pattern should be used before a VC pattern, followed by a CVC pattern (e.g. pie, egg, red)” (Edelen-Smith 1998:104)

Some of the tasks that I would like to offer correspond to the above mentioned principles and involve more direct instruction in the building of skills in students for phoneme identity and phoneme manipulation.
Task 1 –Rhymes – repetition of the same word endings. This could be used in songs or in poems or silly rhymes. You may also encourage children to create their own new rhymes.

Rhyming of words coat – goat; cat  – bat
Have you seen a goat sitting in a boat?
Silly rhymes Zuk in my book;
There is a Wocket in My Pocket (Edelen-Smith 1998:104)

Task 2Alliteration – repetition of an initial consonant sound in several words.
e.g. Six snails sell sodas and snails
Task 3Assonance – repetition of vowel sounds within words, often combined with rhyme
e.g. The leaf, the bean and the peach are all on the beach.
Task 4Sound blending / synthesis:

  • blending an initial sound onto a remainder of a word – /l/ + /ait/ = /lait/
  • blending syllables of a word together – e.g. Listen to the sounds. What is the word they make?
  • blending isolated phonemes to a word (phoneme counting) – e.g. Listen to this word – sat. How many sounds do you hear?

Task 5 – Segmentation – isolation of the sounds in a spoken word by separately pronouncing each one in order. This is one of the most difficult tasks for young learners.

  • Syllable – e.g.Listen to this word: table. Say it syllable by syllable. (ta…ble)
  • Onset / rime – e.g. Listen to this word: pan.  Say the first sound in the word and then the rest of the word. (/p/…an)
  • Phoneme by phoneme – e.g. Listen to this word: sat.  Say the word sound by sound. How many sounds do you hear?

Task 6 – Phonemic manipulation

  • Initial sound substitution – mat -> sat
  • Final sound substitution – mat -> map
  • Vowel substitution – top  -> tap
  • Syllable deletion – Say “baker” without “ba”
  • Initial sound deletion – Say “sun” without “s”
  • Final sound deletion – Say “best” without “t”

Some of these tasks may be incorporated into the following activities:
Activity 1 – Minimal pairs
Listen to the pairs of words. If they sound the same, write [+]. If they are different, write [-].

  1. bag – beg
  2. cat – cut
  3. sheep – sheep
  4. fill – feel
  5. ice – eyes
  6. tenth – tenth
  7. down – town
  8. ski – ski
  9. either – either
  10. game – came
  11. pat – pat
  12. heat – sheet
  13. sad – sad
  14. they – day
  15. hair – air
  16. weak – week
  17. star – starve
  18. tongue – tank
  19. Smith – Smith
  20. tongue – tongue


  1. young – young
  2. boot – but
  3. Jim – gym
  4. big – big
  5. thing – sing
  6. thin – tin
  7. both – both
  8. hat – hat
  9. now – new
  10. shave – save
  11. than – van
  12. this – this
  13. horse – force
  14. white – ride
  15. anger – anger
  16. Kim – king
  17. double – double
  18. breathe – breathe
  19. laugh – love
  20. full – pull


  1. sin – seen
  2. fan – fan
  3. four – fair
  4. snow – snow
  5. through – through
  6. bit – bet
  7. short – shut
  8. missed – mixed
  9. short – short
  10. cub – cup
  11. card – guard
  12. water – quarter
  13. breathe – breeze
  14. thumb – thumb
  15. worm – worm
  16. west – vest
  17. her – here
  18. torch – torch
  19. hard – head
  20. flies – fries

Answer handout

  1. _____
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  9. _____
  10. _____
  11. _____
  12. _____
  13. _____
  14. _____
  15. _____
  16. _____
  17. _____
  18. _____
  19. _____
  20. _____


Note: The teacher gives out to each learner the “Answer handout”. Learners only listen to the pairs of words pronounced by the teacher. They do not see the pairs written. Students only write [+] or [-] depending on whether they hear the same or different pairs of words.
This activity allows the teacher to see which are the problem phonemes for his / her students and decide on remedial work.
G In order to make the activity more useful, you may use recordings of the pairs of words so that students could not judge whether the pairs are the same or different by reading your lips.
Activity 2 – Three word combinations
& Listen to the words and say which of them are the same:

  1. year                             hear                             hair
  2. thin                              tin                                thin
  3. that                              that                              that
  4. send                             sand                             sand
  5. three                            tree                              tree
  6. tank                             tank                             tongue
  7. look                             luck                             lack

Note: Learners only listen to the pairs of words pronounced by the teacher. They do not see the pairs written. The teacher can either give students the Answer handout presented in activity 1 or ask learners to clap their hands if the words are the same or stump their feet if they are different.
G In order to make the useful, you may use recordings of the pairs of words so that students could not judge whether the pairs are the same or different by reading your lips.
Activity 3 – Word combinations
& Mark the sequence of the words in the groups that you hear.
I                       II                     III                    IV                    V                     VI
sit                    bed                  mat                  share                month              post
seat                  bad                  mad                 where              south               cost
sat                    bid                   met                  fair                   both                 lost
seed                 bit                    meet                care                  with                 rose

VII                  VIII                 IX                    X                     XI                    XII
both                 all                    sink                  save                 jeep                  bag
cloth                hall                  think                shave               sheep               pack
clothes             wall                 sing                  wave                cheap               pig
road                 ball                  thick                brave               ship                  pick
Note: Learners see all the words written in the three columns. They task is to write the numbers in each column of the word they hear first, second and third. This activity allows the teacher to receive feedback on whether his / her learners auditory discriminate the different words and whether they know the relations between the sounds and their letter representation.
Activity 4 – Count the sounds
& Listen to the sentence. How many times do you hear the sound /θ/ in the sentence?
e.g.      My father and mother live together with my brother.
Martha Smith is an author and an athlete.
There are three trees in the tram.
Note: This activity focuses the attention of learners on one particular sound that they should identify in the words within the sentence (in the example sentences it is the phoneme /θ /). You can allow students to have the sentences written when they hear them pronounced.

Activity 4 – Labyrinth

cap apple men Ben at
bed hat bad tram can
head set fat catch pen
Fred black sad plan bag
mad map pet let glad

This is a very funny an pleasant way of involving learners in finding words that contain the same sound, i.e. in this case /æ/. Students work alone. Their task is to find the way out of the labyrinth by “stepping” on those words that contain the target sound. The winner is the learner who first manages to find the way out of the labyrinth.
Activity 5 – Rhymes
& Write as many words that rhyme with the word:

  • grow -> blow, snow, show, throw
  • pan -> man, van, ran, plan, can
  • cry -> fly, try, die, buy
  • beat -> meat, meet, sweet
  • come -> some, drum, plum,

Note: Give students only the initial word to which they should write rhymes. You can also add a competitive element and ask students to work in groups. Think of an “award” to the winners!

Activity 6 – Different vowel sound
& Read the words and circle the one with the different vowel sound.
1. what                        hot                   lost                  salt
2. snow                        low                  cow                 show
3. tea                           see                   bee                   be
4. shoe                         love                 true                  book
5. cheap                       sheep               jeep                  chips

Note: Students are given a handout with the words written. Each student in class receives the same handout. Students work alone. They are given time to read the groups of words and decide which is the “odd-one-out”. If the task is not clear to students, you may give an example to illustrate what you expect them to do.
You may include more groups of words depending on the level of your students and on the time you would like to devote to this activity. It will give you feedback on whether your learners make the difference between long and short vowels in English one hand and among vowels on the other hand.

Activity 7 – Bingo

Student 1 Student 2
10 11 12 10
13 14 15


  1. Give to each student two grids – one for his / her own words and one for the words of his / her partner.
  2. Dictate 10 words. The words can be from group phonics (e.g. coat-goat-boat etc.) or they can contain some problem sounds to your students. The learners write the words in squares of their choice. They should not let the other students see which squares they are filling in.
  3. Put the children into pairs. One child in each pair calls out a number between 1-16. If the other learner has a word in this square, he / she says the word. The first learner then writes the word in his / her bottom grid and calls out another number. If the child has no word in the square, he / she says “No!” and it is then his / her turn to call out numbers.
  4. The winner of the game is the first learner who finds the location of the other learner’s 10 words.

It would be best if you dictate some minimal pair words so that you check whether your students can feel the difference, spell the words and read them correctly. You can also have minimal pair words not only containing problem phonemes but also containing silent letters – e.g air – hair.
Activity 8 – Story writing
& Write a story with your class using the sound you are learning. (Ask pupils to fill in the gaps with words that have the sound you are learning.
Our Story
My best friend is an apple. Her name is Ann. She lives in a black hat. She is a happy girl. She has a cat. The cat likes to eat ham. It is a very bad cat.
Note: You can also use pictures to help students visualize the story they are writing.

Activity 9 – Word-picture matching
& Listen to the word the teacher tells. Tick the picture representing the word you hear.

Note: If you are good at drawing you can draw pictures of pairs of words that differ in only sound, e.g. cat – bat, sun – son, bag – back. Glue them together on a piece of paper. Each student in the class has the same handout with the pairs of pictures. Say the word representing only one of the objects in each picture pair. Ask students to tick the picture that represents the word they hear.
The above presented ideas on activities only highlight some ideas you might use in your English language classroom. One of the basic things that you must remember is to use your imagination and creativity in designing new activities or in remodelling the ones offered. Your essential and valuable role as activity designers would not only help in developing and improving the phonemic awareness skills of your learners but it will also contribute to strengthening the position of phonemic awareness training in primary school teaching and learning of English. In fact this will be the first move towards teacher initiated change in school curricula and foreign language teaching and learning in the country.


  • Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment, Council for Cultural Co-operation, Educational Committee, Modern Languages Division, Strasbourg, Council of Europe 2001, Cambridge University Press, 1st edn., 2001
  • Hempenstall, K. Phonemic Awareness: What Does it Mean? A 2003 update, 2003
  • Edelen-Smith, P. How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities for Collaborative Classrooms, Intervention in School and Clinic magazine, Volume 33, Number 2, 1998, pp. 103-111
  • English language curriculum for grade 3: Учебна програма за III-ти клас по английски език (първи чужд език), в-к “Азбуки, бр. 32, 2003, с.7
  • English language curriculum for grade 4: Учебна програма по английски език за IV-ти клас, в-к “Азбуки, бр. 16, 2002, с. 4
  • Information about the degree of readiness for the introduction of foreign language teaching in the primary (grade 2) during the 2002 – 2003 school year: Справка за готовността за въвеждане на чуждоезиково обучение в началния етап на основната образователна степен (2. Клас) през учебната 2002-2003 година – разработена от МОН и Националния институт по образование
  • National Reading Panel: National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction, Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001
  • Starko T. Literature for Literacy Telecollaborative Project (Phonemic Awareness), 2000
  • Tsoneva 2002: Д. Цонева. Развитие на речевия слух. Русенски университет, 2002

[1] Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 107, pp. 106-117
[2] See Nucleus “Speaking” in English language curricula for grade 3 and  4
[3] See Nucleus “Reading” in English language curricula for grade 3 and 4

Using authentic reading materials in FLT

Written by: Maria Neikova
The article focuses on the use of supplementary authentic reading texts in teaching English as a foreign language. It aims at improving the reading skills and strategies of adult learners in a conventional classroom setting and in a computerized learning environment. The use of authentic materials is an important principle of communicative language learning and it contributes to the development of an individual learning style and learner autonomy.
Developing reading skills is an important part of foreign language teaching. Foreign language textbooks offer a variety of reading texts but there is usually a one-size-fits-all approach to the way the texts are presented and to the choice of reading comprehension exercises. When that is the case, foreign language teachers try to find supplementary texts and design their own exercises. In order to achieve better results, certain issues have to be taken into account. These are the similarities and differences between reading in one’s first language and reading in a foreign language, the reasons for reading and the aims of a reading programme, the advantages and disadvantages of using authentic texts at all levels of language proficiency and the criteria we use to choose appropriate texts from various sources.
The following terms will be used in the article:
Ÿ reading – an activity that has as its main purpose “the extraction of meaning from writing” (Nuttal, 1982:4);
Ÿ reading comprehension – “Understanding a written text means extracting the required information from it as efficiently as possible.” (Grellet, 1981:3);
Ÿ authentic texts – “those which are designed for native speakers” (Harmer, 1991:185), e.g. the articles in a newspaper or a magazine;
Ÿ non-authentic texts – those which have been “written especially for language students” (Harmer, 1991:185), in other words, they have been changed, most often simplified, to suit the requirements of a foreign language curriculum.
Let us discuss what reading in a foreign language is, how it differs from reading in one’s mother-tongue. If the foreign language learners are poor readers in their mother-tongue, we can’t expect them to read efficiently in the foreign language. But if they are good readers in their mother-tongue, we expect them to transfer their reading strategies to the foreign language automatically. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Automatic transfer of reading strategies from L1 to L2 is difficult or never occurs. Good readers use top-down and bottom-up strategies to make predictions about the meaning of the text and check them. They vary their reading speed and strategies according to the purpose for their reading and the type of the text. When the same students read a text in the foreign language, they tend to use bottom-up strategies, i.e. their linguistic knowledge, but they rarely dare to use top-down strategies, i.e. their knowledge about the world. Appropriate reading strategies are rarely used and even some faulty reading habits, e.g. subvocalizing, regressive eye movements, etc., can be observed. So, foreign language students usually need more reading practice in order to become efficient readers in the foreign language.
The use of authentic materials is an important principle of Communicative Language Teaching. In real life we read because we are interested in the communicative purpose of the text, in the ideas that the writer has expressed or the effect that the text is supposed to produce on the reader. The language in an authentic text is varied, whereas in a non-authentic one there is often one single structure that is repeated. The use of truly authentic texts is an important means of teaching students to communicate effectively.
Unfortunately, most textbooks make use of non-authentic texts. They are supposed to be easier than authentic ones and to be better suited to the students’ language proficiency level. However, this is not true because:

  • non-authentic texts are usually over-explicit: they say too much because they lack the natural redundancy of authentic ones, they abound with details, so, the students are not given the chance to make any inferences;
  • textbook reading materials usually deal with over-familiar topics. This can hardly be avoided at beginner level but at the higher levels the reading texts can be more informative, enjoyable and interesting;
  • there is often a noticeable emphasis on the product of the activity, i.e. on the answers to the comprehension questions, over the process, i.e. the appropriate use of reading skills and strategies in order to understand the text.

We can overcome these shortcomings quite successfully if we provide supplementary authentic texts. Thus the language learners will become better readers, confident in their ability to cope with reading in real life situations.
So, why do we read? In our daily lives we read for two basic reasons: for pleasure and for information (Grellet, 1981:4). We read for information because we want to find out something, to learn something from the text, or for instruction, in order to do something with the information we get, to find out how to act. These reasons for reading are authentic. An authentic reason for reading can be defined in the following way:

“We use the term authentic to mean reasons that are concerned not with language learning but with the uses to which we put reading in our daily lives outside the classroom.” (Nuttal, 1982:3)

However, in most foreign language textbooks reading is primarily used to teach the language itself, which is not an authentic reason for reading.
The reasons for reading determine the aims of a reading programme, which can be defined as follows: “To enable students to read without help unfamiliar authentic texts, at appropriate speed, silently and with adequate understanding.” (Nuttal, 1982:21). These aims point to certain issues, which are essential in a reading programme. First, students should read silently. In real life one seldom has to read aloud, so, it is not “natural” or authentic to do it in a foreign language class. Another point is the flexibility in choosing the right speed or the degree of understanding. These can vary according to the type of the text and the purpose for reading it. Very often one doesn’t need to read fast or to understand every single word in a text. Next, one should learn to read texts that are authentic and not familiar. In real life people read authentic texts for authentic purposes and they rarely have to read the same text again and again. Last but not least, students should acquire the ability to read without help in order to become independent autonomous learners, and readers in particular. In other words, they should read as efficiently in the foreign language as they do in their mother-tongue.
When should authentic materials be used? This question has always been a tricky one to answer. On the one hand, there is a general agreement that at advanced level or at intermediate level foreign language students are able to read authentic texts. Beginners might be frustrated if they have to tackle an authentic text because it might turn out to be far more difficult than the ones they can understand properly, so “the use of “authentic” texts with less proficient learners is often frustrating and counter- productive” (Ur, 1996:150). On the other hand,

“Getting the students accustomed to reading authentic texts from the very beginning does not necessarily mean a much more difficult task on their part. […] one should grade exercises rather than texts.” (Grellet 1981:7,8)

Reading authentic texts efficiently is a sure way of building up beginners’ confidence. If the teacher grades the tasks carefully, provided the text remains within the students’ general competence, the reading activity will be success-oriented and quite motivating. If the students know that they have read a difficult text but they have managed to understand it adequately, they will feel confident in their own ability to read in the foreign language and will be more willing to take charge of their own learning.
Having mentioned the major drawbacks of textbook reading materials, let’s now consider the guidelines for selecting a text to supplement them or even replace them. These are the readability, the suitability of content and the exploitability of the authentic text (Nuttal, 1982:25).
Ÿ Readability means that the text should be at the right level. When we try to find a readable text, we have to assess the level of its structural and lexical difficulty. Still, we should not forget that the students can deal with more difficult texts, provided the task is not too difficult.
Ÿ Suitability of content means that the text should be interesting and informative. The students’ preferences should not be neglected and a survey of their tastes might help the teacher quite a lot.
Ÿ Exploitability means that the text should facilitate the development of reading skills in order to help the students become competent and independent readers.
However, we shouldn’t forget the fact that language classes are not entirely homogeneous: the level of the students is not the same, their tastes may vary and it is virtually impossible to create an ideal reader who could tackle all existing texts successfully. So, our goals and criteria should be realistic.
As was mentioned earlier, the tasks that teacher designs should be suited to the texts and to one’s reasons for reading them. They should also be success-oriented and should correspond to the students’ language proficiency level. Different texts lend themselves to different activities and it is only in relation to the text that we can decide whether an activity is good or bad.
In a language class students usually read a text to answer comprehension questions but this is not an authentic reason for reading. In order to make it authentic or near-authentic, we have to take into account why we read such texts in real life. For instance, we usually read the TV programme in order to choose something interesting to watch. If we ask our students to complete such a task in the foreign language, the purpose for reading will be an authentic one.
We can divide the reading activities in three groups. These are pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading activities.
Ÿ Pre-reading activities are used to prepare the students for the more detailed understanding of the meaning in the text that is necessary for the following stages. They are important at all levels of language proficiency but at the lower levels students need more instruction and help. Students at advanced level need less guided pre-reading activities. As a pre-reading activity, we can, for instance, ask the students to use the visual support they have (like pictures, maps, whatever there is) to make predictions about the content of the text or they can skim the text in order to find the main idea.
Ÿ The choice of while-reading activities depends on the purpose for reading because it determines the appropriate level of comprehension. The aim of the exercises should be clearly defined; the tasks should be flexible and varied.
Ÿ Post-reading activities give the students the opportunity to do something with the information they have learned from the text and again the choice of the tasks depends on the purpose for reading. Text-related tasks such as discussion, writing an essay or a summary are authentic and stimulate the students’ creative powers.
Another aspect of a reading session is assessment. The assessment of one’s reading ability should correlate with the purpose for reading. Of course we can use comprehension questions. If the purpose for reading is, for example, to find specific information or to understand what the opinion of the writer is and to find supporting arguments in the text, comprehension questions can be used to test understanding. Authentic text-related tasks can also be used for assessment. In order to provide such a task, the teacher needs to consider the purposes for which such a text could be read in real life: for example, the students might be given a menu in order to decide what they would like to have for lunch. When we design assessment tasks, we should bear in mind that assessment involves more accuracy-type activities compared with the activities that aim at the development of reading skills.
At beginner level it is inevitable that the teacher should control the choice of texts and the reading activities; s/he should also determine the purposes for a reading programme. By making the students aware of what they are doing in a reading session, the teacher can help them develop their reading skills consciously and at the higher levels his/her influence should decrease gradually. This transition from a teacher-centered approach to a learner-centered one should help the students become competent readers; they will be able to select the texts they need and to use appropriate strategies according to the type of the text they have chosen to read, i.e. they will be able to take responsibility for their own reading.
Traditionally, teachers look for authentic materials in books, in magazine or newspaper articles. Nowadays they increasingly use the Internet as a powerful tool to enhance reading in the foreign language. Internet-based reading materials have a number of advantages but they also have certain disadvantages that have to be taken into consideration. The Internet abounds in all kinds of texts on virtually every topic that is being explored at present. Authentic reading materials are easy to find, provided the students possess or have free access to the necessary equipment. What is more, multimedia technologies make reading a more interesting and satisfying experience. The animation of the texts on the Internet and the pictures give the students plenty of opportunities to use non-linguistic visual support, for example, they can use it to predict what the text is about. However, there are some limitations that have to be taken into account. First, the teacher has no control over the quality and accuracy of the information on the Internet. At beginner level, when the teacher is in control of the reading material, he can choose particular sites and demand that the students read only the information they can find there. But that can’t last forever. Since our task as teachers is to support our students on their way to becoming autonomous learners, we have to face the fact that as our students become better and better at reading they will feel the urge to choose their reading materials themselves; and the Internet provides ample opportunities for that. Second, in order to read texts on the Internet, one has to feel comfortable with multimedia technologies. Most young people are at ease with them but, unfortunately, not all of them are. And we can’t really expect much of those adults who feel under pressure because they cannot cope with the hyper-linked presentation of information on the Internet. This might even be their first experience with such authentic materials. The lack of computer skills may hamper the reading process and the effect on the students may be demoralizing. To sum up, the teacher should choose the texts with greater care and be more sensitive to the problems that some students may have when they work in a computerized setting. If used properly, the Internet can trigger the interest to explore all kinds of texts and we shouldn’t forget that we learn to read by reading.
What should be pointed out in conclusion is the vital importance of using authentic texts as supplements to textbook reading materials in order to prepare students for real life reading. Authentic texts foster the development of their reading skills thus helping them gain confidence in their reading ability in the foreign language. They become autonomous readers, who can take responsibility for their own reading.

  1. Grellet F. 1981, Developing Reading Skills. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  2. Harmer, J. 1991. The Practice of English Language Teaching. London and New York: Longman.
  3. Nuttal, C. 1982. Teaching Reading skills in a foreign language. Oxford: Heinemann
  4. Ur, P. 1996, A Course in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Teaching a foreign language to university students of other majors within a limited number of hours

Written by: Valentin A. Videnov, New Bulgarian University
The article describes the impossibility and impracticality of teaching a foreign language to university students of other majors within a severely limited number of hours while aiming at an active knowledge of the language, and offers some advice, namely that the teaching be aimed at a strictly passive knowledge within the students’ major. It is based on the author’s experience teaching English at the Agricultural University – Plovdiv.

When I started work at the Agricultural University – Plovdiv (then the Higher Institute of Agriculture) in 1998, most majors studied 60 hours of a foreign language per semester for the first year as a required subject. The students could further choose to study 30 hours of a foreign language per semester as an elective for the four years of their Bachelor programs, which meant that some groups had as many as 6 hours a week during the first year. In addition, there were some “intensive” groups, which had 60 hours of language study per semester for all the years past the first, culminating in a state exam in the chosen language.
By the time I left the Agricultural University in 2005, the situation had radically altered. Now, most majors study only 30 hours of a foreign language per semester for the first year as a required subject, and the students can choose only one semester of a foreign language as an elective (30 hours again) during the further course of their programs. There are no “intensive” groups and no state exams. This means that some students have only 60 hours of a foreign language as part of their university education.
A notable exception to this bleak picture remain the major programs in the Faculty of Economics. Their students of Agricultural Economics study 45 hours of a foreign language per semester for the four years of the program; their Distance Learning students also study a foreign language. But here I will not focus on these students, nor will I talk about the Agricultural Tourism program, also offered by the Faculty of Economics. The target of my attention will be the foreign language instruction of students in the agricultural programs, given the severe limitation of hours, as I propose to use my observations on teaching English to them in order to reach some conclusions on the possibility and the advisable form of teaching a foreign language to non-specialist university students within limited hours.
Clearly, teaching a foreign language to the future agricultural specialists of Bulgaria has become a real challenge. It is not only the limitation of hours that presents a difficulty. The students at the Agricultural University are required (at least as a policy of the Foreign Languages Department) to study the same language that they studied in high school. As the exit Foreign Language I level of Bulgarian high-school students is supposed to be B1 – following the European Council Framework, some further language work (even specialized) could still be done at the university level within the 60 hours allotted. The foreign language knowledge and skills of high-school graduates who apply to, are admitted to, and enroll at the programs of the Agricultural University, however, have been steadily going down over the years. As a result, to be at all meaningful, the university foreign language work with some groups – and these have become the overwhelming majority in programs such as General Agronomy, which are essential to the University’s purpose, — has to start at ground level; and it can progress rather slowly and painfully sometimes.
There are indeed some students scattered in the different groups who are really advanced, but as the groups are formed by the Faculty administrations regardless of foreign language proficiency levels, the only thing to do with these students is to give them individual assignments to complete outside the scheduled classes, and then work with them separately. Such students are so few, however, that their presence or absence does not change the predicament we are examining.
The central question that naturally emerges here is what to do with these 60 hours of university foreign language instruction, how best to utilize them. The answer to the more basic question of the sheer possibility of effective instruction given the limitation of hours and the deplorable entry level of the majority of students is here assumed to be positive: otherwise the whole enterprise should be given up, which is obviously not an option. But most of the available and widely used modern foreign language systems come in levels, where a minimum of 120 hours are required to cover a level, which is twice as much as the allotted number of hours we are dealing with here. And then an elementary level of foreign language proficiency would little avail the future agricultural specialists: it is bound soon to disintegrate and bring most of them back down to ground level. So the question of “What to do?” does seem really troublesome.
Elsewhere, I have described an approach to teaching in such a situation, based on my actual practice with the English instruction of students of other philologies within the Philological Faculty at the University of Plovdiv.1 During this earlier teaching experience, I had the freedom entirely to construct my own program, so I did what I felt made most sense. I still would like to believe that it worked. Accepting the regular appointment at the Agricultural University, however, I was given a course program to follow, which never really was adjusted to the dwindling number of hours within which the course was to happen, while a radical change seemed to me to be required. I never proposed such a change (even though I may say I was about to just before I left) let alone helped implement it. So I am here sharing the observations I made during the growing frustration with my teaching efforts, and trying to point to a way out – applicable not necessarily just to the agricultural major programs at AU – Plovdiv, but also to programs at other higher educational institutions, where – due mainly to the decreased total number of program hours – the foreign language component has shrunk (or is going to shrink) to such absolute minima.
Let me first describe the current practice at AU: with the students of the agricultural majors, with whom I mostly worked, and as I have experienced it.2 Although there exists a specialized English textbook for university students of agriculture, which has undergone three editions,3 its use had already been abandoned in 1998. It was (and still is) claimed to be dated: both in its general (grammar) and specialized components.4 So in its place the use of Part One of the system English for Bulgarians, developed under the supervision of Andrei Danchev and still widely used,5 had been adopted for the teaching of English. It is targeted to adult learners in an academic setting, and offers a good grounding in all essential areas of grammar with clear and salient explanations specifically intended for Bulgarian learners and numerous exercises to reinforce it. I can say I have enjoyed using it.
The very bulk of the book, however, made it less and less suitable for the new format of the course with the progression down from 120+ to just 60 hours combined with the general decline of students’ entry proficiency levels. To do justice to it as instructional material, a course has to cover it all, including most of the exercises. Intended for beginners as it is, it does stand on its own feet grammar-wise, but only in its entirety. While reaching the end (the volume consists of 25 lessons with a revision unit after each group of 5) was still possible to aim at in the early years of my teaching at AU, it had become out of the question by the beginning of academic year 2004/05. To start at Lesson 6 (Present Simple vs. Present Continuous) let alone Lesson 11 (Present Perfect) taking the knowledge of the preceding material for granted had been ruled out by the students’ obvious lack of knowledge; and having started at the beginning, you were lucky if you managed to get past Lesson 11 for the 60 hours (some of them inevitably dedicated to testing purposes in one form or another and to administrative work) with the faster groups.
Now that was apparently worse than doing nothing at all. Foreign language work is only meaningful if it leads to covering all areas of essential grammar (even if some should be covered in less detail than others), as grammar is a system of interdependent components.6 If acquiring an active command of a foreign language is ruled out as a course objective by the limited number of hours, the passive use of the language (for purposes of research in an academic field such as agriculture with its subordinate fields of agronomy, horticulture, plant protection etc. for instance) can only be achieved as an ability by the initial systematic study of grammar. But can the whole of English grammar (at an introductory depth-level) be squeezed into a semester of 30 hours? I would like to suggest that the answer is “Yes” (and especially so with English where the morphological paradigms are so simple as to be virtually non-existent and the syntax is susceptible of being clearly explained). But on a number of conditions:

  1. The essential grammar should be stripped to its bare bones, while still presenting it in its systematic completeness;
  2. The lexical items used for the purposes of grammar presentation should be kept down to an absolute minimum;
  3. The exercises should be few and as simple and straightforward as possible (mainly sentence manipulation and structure recognition) with the aim of preparing the students to interpret texts in their later use of the language;
  4. The topic situations – if such are at all included – should be targeted at the very basic survival level and should naturally go with the grammar presented.

The study of grammar so outlined can also serve as a Humanities component in the major programs offered. By means of it the advanced students could be included in the work of the groups, as they might find the presentation of foreign language grammar as a complete system of interest; and their knowledge would be helpful and encouraging to the other students. The second semester can then be devoted to reading a piece of text relevant to the students’ major in order to master the essential vocabulary in the area, practice using a dictionary, and further observe the grammatical constructions studied during the first semester, now in their actual discourse functioning.
So what I am proposing is the developing of a fresh, modern textbook for the students of agriculture in Bulgaria, adapted to the new, challenging situation that their foreign language (and English in particular – English is by far the most studied language at AU) instruction finds itself in. That textbook would have to present the skeleton of English grammar as a system in the way described above. Then current texts (such as articles or book chapters) should be included, covering all the areas of specialization that the Agricultural University now offers:7 General Agronomy, Animal Husbandry, Horticulture and Viticulture, Plant Protection, Ecology, Tropical and Subtropical Agronomy, Agricultural Engineering, Hydromelioration – ideally texts in the fundamental disciplines that are studies early in the programs, and valuable scientifically. But these texts should not necessarily be a part of the book; they could be changed each year. They should not even be studied during the second semester of the required course, but could be postponed for study during the one-semester elective. What is important in my opinion is the grammar part, and it is this part also that can be transferred to the foreign language course design in programs in other disciplines at other universities where a similar limitation of hours applies.


  1. See Videnov 2004a. The approach described there focuses on the particular suitability of in-depth theoretical discussion of the grammar of a foreign language (other than their major one where applicable) for philology students, especially early in the course of their studies. But it can be applied to university students in programs outside the domain of philology as well, as I shall argue here.
  2. The observations described here reflect mostly my own practice, and only so much of my former colleagues’ as I have come to know of. They are in no way meant to apply to everyone teaching a foreign language at AU, or even to all languages taught there.
  3. Sirakov et al. 1989. The textbook consists of six parts as follows: Part I, Basic English introduction in 16 units, covering all the essential grammar, with exercises; Parts II – IV, Specialized English sections in the areas of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics, Agronomy and Agricultural Economy; Parts V – VI, Grammar and English-Bulgarian Vocabulary Supplements. I shall argue that even if dated, and far behind the current specific needs of the agricultural major programs at AU, this textbook, especially with its Grammar supplement, should be taken into consideration, if not even followed as a model, for the change of strategy I am proposing. My view ahead is thus mostly backward-oriented.
  4. There also exists a specialized French course for university students of agriculture (Spasky et al. 1988), but even though one of its authors retired from AU only a year before I left, and the other – my good friend Galina Andonova – still teaches there, it is similarly not used for teaching purposes. It consists of 21 lessons, simultaneously introducing grammar and specialized vocabulary.
  5. For the latest edition, which is still in print, see Danchev et al. 2000. Even though this text was chosen mainly for its affordability, it has many good features to recommend it. Some of its features though are certainly as dated as those of Sirakov et al. 1989, and the graphic design, with illustrations bordering on the ridiculous, is far from modern.
  6. I have examined the role of grammar in the foreign language instruction of specialists in other areas in Videnov 2004b, but only as supplementary to usual course materials that include graded texts, vocabulary-building exercises, activities etc. Here I am proposing a more radical centering on grammar as a way out of the pressure of a very limited course span.
  7. Excluding, as I mentioned, those offered by the Faculty of Economics where the foreign language teaching situation is rather different.

Works Cited

  • Danchev, Andrei et al. English for Bulgarians. Part One. Vezni-4, Sofia, 2000.
  • Sirakov, Marin, Denka Dobreva & Ljudmilla Petrova. English for the Higher Institutes of Agriculture. Third Edition. Naouka I Izkoustvo, Sofia, 1989.
  • Spasky, Maria, Rossitsa Choumenova & Galina Dantcheva. Manuel de français A l’usage des étudiants de l’Institut Supérieur d’Agriculture. Naouka i Izkoustvo, Sofia, 1988.
  • Виденов, Валентин. Подход към преподаването на английски език на филолози неанглицисти. В: МУ – Варна, ІІІ международна конференция “Езикът – средство за образование, наука и професионална реализация”. 2004, стр. 455-8.
  • _______ . Ролята на граматиката при обучението по чужд език на специалисти от други дисциплини. В: ТУ София – Филиал Пловдив, ІІІ научна сесия “Икономика и управление”. 2004, стр. 152-4.

Effective mistake correction in writing and an application: The Maltepe project

Written by: Mahir Sarigül, Instructor, Teacher Trainer
Maltepe University, Istanbul
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Effective Mistake Correction is the key to being an effective writer in a foreign language and by using a self-correction technique, writing process can be made into a voyage of self-discovery, a principle means of learning, and a skill the learners can use with some confidence. In this study, a self-correction technique in writing has been applied to a group of students studying at English Prep Program of a foundation university under the name of  “Maltepe Project”, and it was aimed to improve their writing skills in terms of accuracy. To this end, a six-week  “Ladder Technique” has been employed and the data obtained were analyzed.

The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory.
Chinese Proverb

1. Introduction

Educating competent enough writers both in L1 and L2 is a long, winding, bumpy road where travelers have to sweat a lot and unlike speaking, accuracy is a sine qua non for being an effective in either of them. While a speaker has a great range of expressive possibilities at his/her command – apart from the actual words he/she uses – such as intonation and stress which help him/her to show which parts, for instance, they wish to be taken seriously. It is also possible to re-phrase what he/she is saying or speed up (or slow down) depending on the feedback he/she gets from the listeners. Moreover, the speaker has the opportunity to use his/her body, gestures, mimics, etc. to get his/her ideas across to the others (Harmer, J. 1983), and a speaker can also be understood well by his/her listeners even if he/she is not the master of that language. There are, for example, a long list of fillers in English like “er…”, “uhm…”, “You know…”, “What I mean…”, etc. They all help the speaker express him/herself in one way or the other and a mastery of such linguistic techniques to cover up a fairly weak knowledge of the language often provokes initial admiration on the part of native speakers such as, “How well you speak English!”, “You’re almost a native speaker!” and so on (Byrne, D. 1980. Cited in Smith, M.S. 1976).
However, when it comes to writing, things get more serious as there is no listener, no gestures or mimics, etc., and the learner is forced to concentrate on communicating his/her ideas, feelings in the target language. Only then does that so-called “fluent” speaker understand how vital to increase the time spent on practicing to write.
Bearing all the above-mentioned issues in mind, accuracy is still the prevailing issue in writing in L2 starting from the early stages to the advanced. Unlike speaking in which mistakes can be tolerated, a piece of writing, however, in Harmer’s terms (1983), with mistakes and half-finished sentences, etc. would be judged by many native speakers as illiterate since it is expected that writing should be “correct”.
However, most language learners find the writing a difficult-to-acquire skill and rather time-consuming. So do the teachers. Besides the enormous workload of reading the written work, teachers usually think correction process is almost always a futile effort since most of the corrected written work is tucked away into the books or notebooks and forgotten there. Moreover,  this kind of spoon-feeding approach might leave students disarmed in the future as they will not be fully aware of the mistakes they have made at each stage of writing process such as copying, doing exercises, guided and free writing.
Correcting students’ written work is , then, surely a painstaking effort and when the feedback is not very much fruitful, it could lead both the teacher and the students to frustration, so it is essential that correction process should be, in Brumfit’s (1980) terms, a genuine learning process by using an effective self-correction technique through which learners will become skilled mistake-recognizers.
Therefore, this paper aims : 
(1)   To have learners recognize the mistakes for a specific set of criteria by correcting their classmates’ written work,
(2)   to minimize the number of  pre-determined mistake types after seeing and correcting them repeatedly,
(3)   to contribute to developing oral fluency practice while discussing in groups or in pairs over a correction or a mistake in the written work

3.  Advantages of Self-correction

As Brumfit (1980) stated, there are a number of advantages in students’ correcting their own work after they have undergone certain steps in doing so.
First of all, practice in looking for mistakes in other students’ work helps a learner to pinpoint mistakes in his/her own work more easily and it might also help him/her find out that something he/she has considered correct until then, can be proved to be incorrect.
Secondly, doing the correction immediately after the written work will provide  more meaningful learning  since the points studied are still fresh in the learner’s mind.
Thirdly, group or pair discussion can also contribute to students’ oral fluency practice as they talk over the mistakes and try to reach a consensus among themselves.
Finally, for teachers it is a constructive activity rather than a passive criticism and judgement, devoting hours for scribbling over them for hours at home. So putting more of the responsibility on students for correction develops a sense of self-sufficiency. It also helps some “wean” students from dependency on the teacher for correction (Wood, N.M, 1993).

4. THE “LADDER TECHNIQUE”  (Adapted from Brumfit, C.J. 1977)

Although Brumfit (1977: 12) developed this technique to employ at the most advanced stages of free writing, I suggest that this technique should also be employed in language classes with students of intermediate, pre-intermediate or even elementary levels provided that it is adjusted accordingly. By this method, not only are the student expected to become competent writers in English language but also it is aimed to reduce the amount of guidance that the teacher offers to a minimum.
It is a six to twelve-week scheme in which students undergo a process of writing steps, each of which lasts one to two weeks(See Table 1). The teacher follows a writing syllabus or it can be squeezed in a skills course or main course syllabus in which most writing falls in a continuum from controlled to semi-controlled to free writing.

Table 1. A six-week “Ladder Technique” (Adapted from Brumfit’s correcting
errors in written work, 1980)

Step 1 : Underline the mistake and identify it in the margin w/w    sp    She did many mistaks.
Step 2 : Underline the mistake but do not identify She did many mistaks.
Step 3 : Identify the mistake but do not show where the line in which the mistake is w/w    sp    She did many mistaks.
Step 4 : Simply put an arrow in the margin for each mistake She did many mistaks.
Step 5 : Put an arrow for each line with a mistake (but do not show how many) She did many mistaks.
Step 6 : Hand the work back to the groups for discussion without correcting it at all She did many mistaks.

4.1. Step 1
At the first step students are asked to write a piece and hand it in the teacher who by using a correction table, corrects only the mistakes made at structural level. While doing so, the teacher underline each mistake in each line and identify it in the margin (the writing papers either with a margin line about 4 cm width either prepared by the teacher to form a standardization or the students are told to do so) by using correction codes.
The next lesson before handing back the written work to the students, the teacher explains what each symbol stands for he/she gives a demonstration of how the mistakes will be corrected on the board by presenting a few sample sentences, and then, putting the students into groups of three or four (depending on the class size), the papers are handed to the groups to do the correction work. However, at this point, the teacher has to pay special attention in paper distribution in such a way that no student’s paper should go to the group of which he/she is the member (thus offending or embarrassing that student by his/her peers is avoided).
During the correction process(particularly at this level) the teacher plays a monitoring role by simply walking around the class without interfering directly, but offering help when asked.
Upon completion of the correction task the papers are recollected and the final check is made by the teacher. Then papers are given to the owners to see their mistakes and are asked to rewrite it. Both the first and the last version of the written work are kept in a file to be later recorded on self-improvement record sheets. This procedure is repeated at every stage afterwards.
4.1. Step 2
At the second step of the Ladder Technique, the teacher  simply underlines the mistakes, but does not identify what the mistake is. This step seems to be a bit more confusing as students might be at a loss and need (especially at lower levels) a  “knower’s “ help more. Then, if that were the case, the teacher is welcome to provide help for the students.
4.1. Step 3
At the third step the teacher identifies the mistake, but does not show where the line in which the mistake is. Here the things are getting more complicated since students, though know what type of mistakes have occurred in the line, do not know which is wrong. The major drawback at this stage is that the students, due to their background knowledge, may underline and correct the parts which are already correct, which is something to be tackled with immediately. Therefore, teacher’s role is now far from only monitoring, on the contrary, he/she has to play a more active role in leading the students to the correct ‘incorrect’ in the line!
From this step onwards, though the students presumably have become efficient correctors, teacher’s role has to gain mileage until the last step of the process.
4.1. Step 4
At the fourth step, the teacher just puts an arrow in the margin for each mistake and expects the students to find, identify and correct it.
4.1. Step 5
Here the teacher puts only an arrow before each line with a mistake but does not show how many.
4.1. Step 6
At the final step which is the sixth, the teacher’s initial role is at its minimum, handing the work back to the groups for discussion without correcting it at all. This step is the riskiest of all since the groups, literally, are on their own. However competent the groups are, the responsibility still falls on the teacher to give a quick look at the written work afterwards and perhaps it is more time consuming on the part of the teacher.


Maltepe University, founded in 1997 in Istanbul is the last link of Marmara Educational Institutions Foundation with  more than 3,000 students.  Although the medium of instruction is Turkish, there is an intensive one-year English Language Prep Program.
The program functioning under the Department of Foreign Languages aims to enable the students to

  • understand an English text they read or hear
  • learn the English grammar and use it accurately
  • express themselves both in orally and in written forms
  • interpret and evaluate graphics, and schemes in English related to their fields of study
  • do note-taking from a text they hear or read, make a summary and write essays in their fields of study
  • do academic studies and researches in English.

5.2.1. How it started
As it can be understood from the above-mentioned objectives, students at Maltepe University are expected to be competent writers in English. However, since the medium of instruction is Turkish except their ESP (English for Specific Purposes) Courses in the preceding years of their education, it is essential that they be given some sound skills in writing. Unfortunately, based on  observation made by the teachers teaching ESP classes, a small number of the students who leave the prep school can retain efficient writing skills in later years. So I have thought that it is best to have the students acquire firmer skills in writing and to do so I have decided to start a piloting class of 27 subjects.
5.2.2. The profile of the subjects
The project has been conducted with the students at Prep School for a period of six weeks. A group of 27 subjects have participated in the project, 11 of which are girls and 16 are boys aging between 18-23.  The group had already taken a proficiency test on which they were not able to get a score of 50 / 100, a prerequisite required to be exempted from prep class and on the replacement test ,too, given afterwards they scored  very low . Therefore, they were streamed as  C Level (Beginners) students.
5.2.3. The coursebook and the Materials Studied
The project started as a part of skills course that ran parallel to the main course which mainly focuses on grammar and language functions. Skill  Zone Elementary (OUP, 2002) was the course book in which the writing activities are controlled and accuracy is of primary importance. In addition to the coursebook, some supplementary materials in the form of worksheets were provided so that each writing task would be reinforced.
5.2.4. The Type of writings done
Writing activities done with the group were as follows:
1st week

  • sending an e-mail and telling about oneself to a friend
  • sending an e-mail on behalf of someone

2nd week

  • a thank-you letter/e-mail to a friend / a relative for a present

3rd week

  • writing about a celebrity
  • describing a person

4th week

  • writing about one’s daily routine
  • writing about one’s favorite place

5th week

  • writing about an important day in one’s country
  • writing a guided opinion essay

6th week

  • guided story writing

5.2. Evaluation Criteria
Since the subjects chosen for the project were all students at elementary level, the correction criteria used were restricted to eight specific language areas and the subjects were asked to focus on them. In the beginning , a class hour was devoted to explaining the symbols to-be-used for correction later in their written work and thus the subjects became familiar with them.
5.2.1. Correction Symbols
The following symbols presented in the table below indicate the most common language areas where the learners at elementary level are likely to make mistakes. The list could have been extended, but to avoid too much confusion, it was kept them at minimum.
Table 2. Correction Table

Symbol Meaning
SVA Subject-Verb Agreement
W / W Wrong Word
Sp Spelling
Pl /Sing Plural / Singular
ARt Article
Pnct Punctuation
Prep Preposition
T Tense

5.2.2. Self – Improvement Record Sheet
SIRSs were developed to closely observe each subjects and see how much progress h/she  made during the process. Each object was supposed to write two pieces of writing at each step(See Table 3).
Table 3. Self-improvement Record Sheetk (SIRS)

Step  : ….. Number of Errors
Name  : ………….
SVA W/W Sp Pl / Sing ARt Pnct Prep T Total
1st writing
2nd writing


Although motivation was a major problem, the subjects were talked into how important  writing was as a skill, particularly in the exams they were going to take (since they were all exam-oriented, this worked!).
Save for the sixth stage, at each stage the written work was collected by the teacher and corrected according to the procedure mentioned here above and handed back to the subjects to do the correction in groups of three or four (sometimes  in pairs due to the number of the subjects present in class at that time).  During the correction process, the teacher acted as an “ombudsman” whenever the groups had a dispute or when the discussion over a correction came to a deadlock.
After each step was over, the papers were handed to their owners and asked to go through their work and to have a look at the errors they made.
Then the papers were recollected by the teacher so that the number of errors could be tallied and recorded in the self-improvement record sheet (SIRS).

6.1. analysis of DATA
Starting from the first step of “Ladder Technique” all the written work was scanned and the total number of errors for each correction symbol at each stage was recorded and then its percentage was assessed (See Table 4).
Table 4 – Percentage of errors at each step

Type of errors 1st Step 2nd Step 3rd Step 4th Step 5th Step 6th Step
Subject-Verb  Agreement (SVA) 9% 9% 57% 18% 16% 12%
Wrong Word (W /W) 20% 17% 15% 8% 12% 15%
Spelling (Sp) 25% 11% 8% 13% 14% 12%
Plural/Singular (Pl /Sing) 5% 5% 1% 23% 17% 10%
Article (Art) 21% 9% 1% 17% 11% 9%
Punctuation (Pnct) 8% 9% 1% 5% 4% 3%
Preposition (Prep) 8% 21% 15% 9% 22% 21%
Tense (T) 0% 13% 0% 1% 0% 15%

6.1.1.Subject-Verb Agreement (SVA)
Of the six writings the number of mistakes on SVA made a peak in the third writing by 57% due to the nature of the writing activity. Here the subjects were asked to write about describing a person and using third person singular pronoun was a problem, particularly for learners at elementary level. However, there has been a decline in SVA error in the following writings.
6.1.2.Wrong Word (W/W)
Correct word usage has been a problem all through the writing steps and shows a ascending  nature towards the end of the sixth step. It only tends to decrease at the fourth step by 8% due to the fact that the subjects were asked to write about their daily routine and since they are not expected to use a wide range of vocabulary, the number of errors in Wrong Word has decreased.
6.1.3. Spelling (Sp)
While in the first writing the spelling subjects consist of 25% of total errors, starting from the second writing they show a decline and with a slight increase in the third and fourth writing,and they levelled off in the fifth and sixth. However, there has been no decline observed in spelling errors due to the increasing number of new words learned both in main course and skills classes. When the learners attempt to use a new word, they usually misspell it. Nevertheless, looking at the graph, from an optimistic point of view, spelling is on the decline by 12% in the sixth writing.
6.1.4. Plural / Singular
Though plurality and singularity do not seem to be a serious problem in the first, second and third writings, the number of mistakes in Plural / Singular nouns rises sharply in the fourth writing by 23%. Then it starts falling gradually in the fifth (17%) and sixth (10%) writings.
6.1.5. Article
The rate of mistakes related to article usage climbed to 21% in the first writing, but plummets in the second and third. An amazing rise can be observed in the fourth  and a gradual fall followed in the fifth and sixth writings.
6.1.6. Punctuation
All through the writing steps  punctuation was always of a minor issue with an average of 5%; highest in the second (9%) and lowest in the third(1%). And right after the fourth writing it had a gradual decrease.
6.1.7. Preposition
Mistakes in preposition usage have been on the increase starting from the first writing and a sharp rise can be observed after the fifth writing (22%) and continued in the sixth (21%). Unfortunately, there has been no decrease in the number of preposition errors except the slight fall in the fourth writing.
6.1.8. Tense
Tense usage showed the most irregular pattern among the types of mistakes the learners made. Those sharp rises and falls indicate, points of time when they met a new tense (such as present or past simple or as in the sixth, past progressive). So the sixth writing took the first position by 15% in tense errors.
During the application of the “Ladder Technique” (at some point half-way) a questionnaire was given to the subjects to see how effective / ineffective; fruitful / unfruitful the technique was and how the subjects felt about it. Ten questions were included in the questionnaire and the subjects were asked to answer on a basis of five choices ranging from “Certainly Yes” to “Certainly No”.  The questionnaire was given in Turkish (L1) to avoid any possible problems in understanding the questions.
The questionnaire was given to the objects at one sitting and at that time there were only 19 subjects were present. To make them feel more relaxed and stress-free (and surely more frank!) they were told that they did not have to write their names on the questionnaire.

Table 5. Analysis of the data


1. Writing in English is absolutely a difficult skill.
10% 52% 15% 15% 5%
2. Writing in English is more difficult than speaking. 10% 42% 15% 26% 5%

3. Assignments and class activities help improve my writing skills
36% 47% 5% 5%

4. Correcting the mistakes in my classmates’ papers is an effective  study.
15% 47% 26% 5%

5. Group work is motivating
21% 47% 26% 5%

6. I feel more self-confident knowing that the teacher will help when needed.
52% 36% 15% 5%

7. It is embarrassing to see my mistakes and the correction on my paper.
5% 42% 52%

8. It is best if the teacher corrects my mistakes and  return it to me.
10% 10% 52% 15% 10%

9. I am rather reticent to discuss my opinion in the group.
15% 15% 31% 31%

10. At every stage of this application I feel more confident.
29% 36% 26% 5%

1. Writing in English is absolutely a difficult skill.
While a total of   62% had a preconception that writing was a difficult skill, only 20% said it was not, and 15% of the subjects  were not sure whether it was difficult or not.

2. Writing in English is more difficult than speaking.
As opposed to 52% of  the learners saying writing in English was more difficult than speaking it, 36% disagreed . This justifies the first question that writing is a difficult skill.
3. Assignments and class activities help improve my writing skills
More than 80% of the learners agreed that assignments and classroom activities contributed to developing their writing skills, which indicates that encouraging the learners to do more practice would yield positive results.
4. Correcting the mistakes in my classmates’ papers is an effective study.

Though 26% of the learners stated that they were not sure was a useful activity, 62% of them opted for  “Yes” and “Certainly Yes”.
5. Group work is motivating.
26% of the learners remained indecisive on the benefits of group work while two thirds of them said it was a motivating activity.
6. I feel more self-confident knowing that the teacher will help when needed.
A crushing 88% thought teacher’s  assistance helped the learners develop a firmer self-confidence. This is a reflection that they need to refer to a “knower” in case they encounter something they could not handle. Here, the teacher’s presence was a mere resource book rather than an intimidating figure interfering all the time telling what to do, and how to do.
7. It is embarrassing to see my mistakes and the correction on my paper.
Perhaps some reticent learners (5%) felt rather embarrassed upon seeing the errors in their written work and the correction of them by their classmates might have disturbed them. On the other hand, 94% of the learners were quite happy with the application. This indicates that the majority of the subjects are no longer scared of making mistakes.
8. It is best if the teacher corrects my mistakes and  return it to me.
52% of the subjects  were not sure if this were a good idea. Perhaps this is a sign that half of the subjects still think that they are not capable enough mistake correctors. Nevertheless, 25 % of the learners still believe that they would benefit more if they, themselves, involved in correction process.
9. I am rather reticent to discuss my opinion in the group.
This received 63% of “No” and “Certainly no” answers while  15% “Not sure”, and 15% “Yes”. The data showed that there were students who had lack of confidence and were self-conscious when it came to expressing and discussing their ideas.
10. At every stage of this application I feel more confident.
This last question was given a remarkable 65% of “Yes” and “Certainly yes” answers and only 26% of them said they were “Not sure”. What was worth considering here was that none of the subjects wrote “No” or “Certainly no” as one of the major aims of this project was increase learners’  self-confidence.          
6.4.1. Learner-oriented problems
Learners’ motivation was a major problem since the medium of instruction is Turkish at Maltepe University and even if the students fail in prep class, they have the right to start their undergraduate studies but they are required to pass the proficiency tests given twice every year until they graduate. So in order to motivate them the subjects were slightly ‘threatened’ in the way that they would not be able to get graduated unless they passed the prep class in four years.
As a starting point, I had to talk them into being an accurate and efficient writer in English and explained that the writing section in all the tests is valued by 25 points out of 100. That helped some except a few totally reluctant, resistant and hopeless ones.
The second problem was the learners’ unfortunate L1 experiences in writing. The majority of the subjects stated that they devoted very little or no time to writing activities in their secondary and high school education and the only ‘serious’ writing activity they did was free writing as they were assumed that they were ‘competent writers’ in Turkish. They hardly had any proper writing skills in L1 to be transferred in L2.
6.4.2. Application-oriented problems
During the application of “Ladder Technique”, the main problem encountered was absenteeism and due to this fact, a proper SIRS (Student Improvement Record Sheet) file could not be kept. Though some benign and determined learners later handed their writing, a good one-third participated class activities irregularly. Thus, instead of each subject’s writing twelve pieces for six weeks, some remained at seven or eight. Since all of the writings and all the correction steps were done in the class, attendance was of vital importance.
The second problem was that some of the subjects, while working in their groups usually took the initiative and without discussing with the group members did the correction. Those subjects were usually the ones whose level of English was well above the other members in the group. To minimize this, the teacher walked more in the class as a monitor interfering upon seeing one-man show in a group.
The third problem was mainly of classroom time devoted to writing activities. Seven hours a week was not enough to complete the project in six weeks satisfactorily due to reading, speaking and listening skills included in the skills course syllabus. Had there been more class hours, the “Ladder Technique” would have been much more effective.


The importance of self-correction is unquestionable as it allows the learners to become skilled in recognizing their mistakes and to be competent writers in a foreign language learning process once the specific correction symbols / codes are determined.
At this point, The Maltepe Project on self-correction employing the “Ladder Technique” on a piloting group of 27 subjects reached its aims not fully, but mostly.
Firstly, the project aimed to have learners recognize mistakes for a specific set of criteria by correcting their classmates’  written work. This aim was achieved by the careful reinforcement of each criterion repeatedly, thus the subjects became skilled in recognizing mistakes for a specific set of criteria which, in this case, was limited to eight language areas.
Secondly, it was aimed to reduce the re-occurrence of mistakes in writing to a minimum and in five out of eight mistakes types, a remarkable decrease was observed. Subject-verb Agreement(SVA) mistakes were reduced to 12%; Spelling (Sp) mistakes to  12%; mistakes in Plural/Singular(Pl/Sing) to 10%; Article (Art) mistakes to 9%; and Punctuation(Pnct) mistakes to 3%.
Thirdly, the aim was to contribute to learners’ oral fluency practice as they discuss in groups during the correction process. Since all of the subjects were at elementary stage in English, it was not very likely to have them speak English during the group work. Yet, they were encouraged to use expressions like, “No, I don’t agree with you,” ; “Yes, I agree.” ; “What about this?”; “That’s not correct.” ; “I think it is correct.” etc., but still most of the discussion in group work activities was conducted in L1,which was tolerable at this stage.
Finally, the questionnaire given to the subjects during the project showed that they found self-correction useful (63 %) and helpful in building self-confidence(62%). Furthermore, the subjects saw the whole  process as a contribution to their writing skills (83%) and accepted the fact that making mistakes was a natural outcome of writing in a foreign language so they overcame the fear of seeing their mistakes corrected in their paper (94%).


Allen, J.P.B – Corder, S.P (1974). TECHNIQUES IN APPLIED LINGUISTICS. Oxford University Press, London.
Allen, J.P.B. (1975). SOME BASIC CONCEPTS IN LINGUISTICS in J.P.B. Allen and S. Pit Corder (Eds. THE EDINBURGH COURSE IN APPLIED LINGUISTICS. Volume 2. (OUP, 1975). Pp.26-27. Cited in Byrne, D. (1980), ENGLISH TEACHING PERSPECTIVES, Longman.
Bowen, T. – Marks, J. (1994). INSIDE TEACHING, Heinemann. Great Britain.
Harmer, J. (1988).  THE PRACTICE OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING. Longman. Hong Kong.
Smith, M. (1976).   A Note on ‘Writing versus Speech’ English teaching Journal XXXI. 1976. Pp 17-19. Cited in Byrne, D. (1980). ENGLISH TEACHING PERSPECTIVES. Longman.
Wood, N.M. (1983). ‘Self-correction and Rewriting a Student Composition’. Teaching Forum. July-September, 1977. Vol.31. No.3. Pp. 38.

Back to Folding – Back to Fun

Written by: Maria Ivanova –English teacher, “Hristo Botev” Primary school, Plovdiv
Teaching English is fun. Teaching English through origami is challenging and fun. Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, can be used not only for teaching the four language skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening, but also for improving arts and & craft skills, communication and even imagination. Don’t you believe it? Come and see!
Here is an outline of a workshop presentation aimed at rediscovering the potential of the simple paper folding for making the ELT more vivid and effective.
Activity 1: Introducing the art of origami to the participants (Ps). Origami-the Japanese art of paper folding (ori-fold, kami-paper). The fascination of the art is making something beautiful from something as ordinary as everyday paper. I’m going to share my fascination of using origami in ELT for practicing the four language skills.
Activity 2: Sit back and relax. Close your eyes. Imagine that you are a bird  on a top of a hill.  You can fly. What can you see? You see another bird. You fly to each other and you meet. And you are happy. You have a friend. Now open your eyes. How does it feel like?
Activity 3: Would you like to be this bird? This is you. The origami big birds are given to the Ps. You want to meet each other and to be friends. What do you say? Simple conversations are practiced. (What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from).Speaking skills are practiced.
Activity 4: They can make a family and they can have little birds, so that you can create stories. You can make your family as big as you want. For a big family it is very easy to get into any kind of adventures. Some examples of the family stories are suggested. Small members of the bird family are shown. The size of the paper determines the size of the bird.
Activity 5: A rhyme can also be practiced. The Ps practice it by making the origami birds flying.

Two little birds
Sitting on a hill.
One named Jack,
And one named Jill.
Fly away Jack,
Fly away Jill.
Come back Jack,
Come back Jill.

Activity 6: Now let me introduce to you another family. This time a frog family.

The frog family
(from OUP Resource books-Young Learners by Sarah Phillips,p.22)

This is a story about Daddy frog, Mummy frog, Sister frog, Brother frog and Baby frog.
It was hot- very, very hot and Daddy frog went jump, jump, jump and sat on a leaf in a pond. (The paper daddy frog jumps from the paper coast to the paper leaf in the paper pond).
Mummy frog was hot- very, very hot. (Show me it’s hot). So Daddy frog said: “Come here!”(with a gesture). Mummy frog went jump, jump, jump and sat on the leaf in the pond. (The paper mummy does it).
Sister frog was hot – very, very hot. So, mummy frog said: ”Come here!” (with a gesture). Sister frog went jump, jump, jump and sat on the leaf in the pond. (The paper sister does it).
Brother frog was hot-very, very hot. (with a gesture) So sister frog said: “Come here!” (with a gesture). Brother frog went jump, jump, jump and sat on a leaf in the pond. (The brother frog does it)
Baby frog was hot- very, very hot. (with a gesture). So brother frog said: “Come here!” (with a gesture )Baby frog went jump, jump, jump and sat on the leaf in the pond. (The baby frog does it)
And they –SPLASH –they all fell into the water. (All the family members fall from the paper leaf in the paper pond.)

Did you like the story? What do you think of this? How do you find using paper characters?
It’s good for tactile learners. Three-dimention things are fun.
A chart about Multiple Intelligences is shown and discussed.
This is what a brother frog and a sister frog do in their free time. A competition between them is shown. (Two plastic cups or plates are displayed. The aim is to try to get the frog into the cup/plate by repeating something, saying alphabet or counting. ).It can be used as a relaxing activity as well.
If it is a competition what language can be used?
(Competition language is revised-On your marks! Let’s set! Go! Your turn!)
We can give students a time limit. (3-5 mins). Now let’s see who is the winner?
Activity 8: Green square sheets of paper are given out. Paper frogs are made. (See handout 1)
Activity 9: These are the Frog family’s friends-The ten green frogs.(Ten paper frogs are presented.)
Let’s meet them and sing the song. (We sing the song. Every time a frog jumps-a paper frog does it.)(See handout 2)
Activity 10: After so much jumping with the frogs, let’s jump ourselves!
Stand up, please!
I would like to be sure that you know the names of the colors.
What colour is this? This is blue, right? (misleading).
The colour flashcards are displayed on the floor.
Swim to green. Fly to red. Jump to yellow-slowly, quickly, angrily…
Great! You can obey to instruction.
Activity 11: Let’s make an instruction machine!
Find yourself a partner. Here are two handouts and a set of felt tips. This is going to be the instruction mashine and these are the instructions for making the instruction machine.
Who wants to read the instructions? What do we teach? –colours, questions, giving and obeying to commands,…
(See the handout 3-Young Learners,OUP,p.30)
Activity 12: Fortune teller-Demonstration is made.
This is a version of the instruction mashine for practicing “going to” construction, colours and numbers.
Activity 13: Reading can also be combined with origami. There are the so-called pocket books or mini books. A demonstration is made. The children have to fold and cut it  in order to make a book and read it.
(See the handout 4 and 5)
Activity 14: The next step is that they can make their own books from a blank sheet of paper. It’s very useful when the children are on a green school. They can make their own dairies.
A competition with mini books can also be made-mini books on a topic- numbers, colours, spooky stories, real stories. “Make a mini book-win a big prize!”
(Students books are shown.)
Activity 15: Origami can also be used as a reward.
Samples of what I have given as a reward are shown.
Activity 16: The audience is rewarded with an origami story.

The Challenge of the Indigo Children

Written by: David A. Hill

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand,
For the times they are a-changin’.
(Bob Dylan: The times they are a-changin’ (1967))

The Issue:

Contemporary children are different.They display

  • a new and unusual set of psychological attributes
  • patterns of behaviour which have not been documented before

Are there children in your class(es) who display (some of) these characteristics?

  • Much less likely than the other children in class to pay attention to school work and make seemingly inexplicable mistakes.
  • Appear to have substantially more difficulty sustaining concentration when engaged in practical or play activities.
  • Seem unable to listen even when spoken to directly.
  • Do not complete tasks which they have been given.
  • Unable to get hold of themselves and the set task sufficiently to organize their thoughts and plan a reasonable course of action, yet they do understand what is expected of them when questioned.
  • Actively avoid and clearly dislike tasks and activities that demand sustained concentration and thought.
  • Regularly manage to lose things – school items such as pens ans pencils, but also precious personal things like toys.
  • Easily distracted, turning towards movement and noise. ‘Over-alert’.
  • Forget routine tasks.
  • Appear restless in all situations.
  • Show a clear pattern of wandering around the room when the task demands that they are seated.
  • Take any opportunity for running around or climbing.
  • Do not engage in quiet play.
  • Seem persistently active, with little need for rest periods.
  • Say things which are not thought out; talk for the sake of it.
  • Raise hands and blurt out answers before the question is finished, and the real answer can be known.
  • Have real problems turn-taking.
  • Have weak social skills; unable to join conversations and play other than by barging in.
  • This behaviour in not a recent phenomenon.

Such children are described as exhibiting the three behaviours of:

  • Attention difficulties
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity.

At best, they are labelled as being a nuisance, uncooperative, hyperactive, antisocial, negative, out of control……
In the worst case, they are labelled as having ADD (Attention Deficiency Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)
The major answer to such beahviour by the authorities (Educational, Social and Medical) is to prescribe psychotropic drugs based on amphetamines:
Ritalin (Methylphenidate), Dexedrine (Dexamphetamine), Cylert, Tofranil, Norpamin, Prozac, Paxil….
There has been a significant increase in the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and subsequent prescription of Ritalin etc. in the past 20 years:

  • In 1990  900, 000 children were on Ritalin
  • In 2000  5 million children were on Ritalin


  • 1 in every 36 boys in New South Wales, Australia takes Ritalin


  • In 1992 2,000 prescriptions for Ritalin were written
  • In 1999 158, 000 prescriptions for Ritalin were written
  • In 2001  254, 000 prescriptions for Ritalin were written
  • 73, 200 6-16 year-olds in England & Wales have been diagnosed with severe ADHD
  • 1.7% of the population/6-8% of the child population has been diagnosed as having ADHD

The system has tried to ascribe the increase in ADD/ADHD to a range of causes, from poor parenting, to inadequate (junk food) diet, to environmental issues (TV/Computer abuse), to changes in parts of the brain that control impulses and concentration, and which are genetic.
However, what actually seems to be happening is that we are in the middle of a visible stage of human evolution, with new generations moving onto another plane of which the establishment is completely unaware and unable to cope with.


Why ‘Indigo’ Children?
In 1982, Nancy Ann Tappe published Understanding Your Life through Colour in which she classified certain types of human attributes which seemed to correlate to the colours of the electromagnetic field surrounding all living things – in the case of humans, the auric field. She found that a deep blue colour was being seen in about 80% of children born after 1980. She called this colour ‘indigo’.
The term was then coined by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober for their ground-breaking book 1999 on the new children.
It is no coincidence that ‘indigo’ is also the colour at which the 6th chakra – the so-called ‘third eye’ – primarily spins. This is the chakra which regulates psychic phenomena.

2000 95%
1994 90%
1992 85%
1984 15-20%
1974 10-15%
1964 5-10%
PRE-1964 0-5%

The ten most common traits of Indigo Children are:

  • they have a feeling of royalty
  • they feel they deserve to be here
  • self-worth is not very important to them
  • they have difficulty with absolute authority
  • they simply won’t do certain things
  • they get frustrated with ritual-oriented systems
  • they often see better ways of doing things
  • they often seem antisocial
  • they do not respond to ‘guilt’ discipline
  • they tell you what they need

They respond best when treated like a respected adult.
They are also usually:

  • headstrong and strong-willed
  • isolationist
  • easily bored
  • seek real, deep and lasting friendships
  • bond easily with plants and animals

The Indigo Child at School

At school this means they behave differently in important areas of classroom activity:
They can suck up knowledge like a sponge, especially if they like or are drawn to a subject, which makes them very advanced in their areas of interest
They know that experiencing life helps them learn best, so they create the experiences they need to help them with their current problem or area where they need to grow.
They respond best when treated like a respected adult/equal. If you’re not playing your part of the relationship properly, they feel justified in challenging you about it.
They have an inherent strong determination to work things through for themselves and only want outside guidance if it’s presented to them with respect and within a format of true choice. They prefer to work things out for themselves.
Indigo Children live instinctively.
Education systems require research-based proof.
Indigo Children have self-esteem and a positive self-image.
Education systems require a socially acceptable ‘self’.
Indigo Children need discipline which is logical and realistic.
Educational systems have rigid and fixed rules of punishment.
Indigo Children need choices and the opportunity for experience.
Educational systems give orders and limit choice and experience.

Working with Indigo Children

  • Treat them with respect
  • Help them create their own disciplinary solutions
  • Give them choices about everything
  • Never belittle them
  • Always explain why you give them instructions
  • Make them partners in bringing them up
  • Explain everything you are doing to them
  • Let them decide what they are interested in
  • Avoid negative criticism. Offer support and encouragement.

Carroll L/Tober J (1999) The Indigo Children. Carlsbad, Ca: Hay House
Carroll L/Tober J (2001) An Indigo Celebration. Carlsbad, Ca: Hay House
Lancaster D (2002) Anger and the Indigo Child. Boulder, co: Wellness Press
Virtue D (2001) The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children. Carlsbad, Ca: Hay House
IndigoWebsites: (Wendy H. Chapman)
ADD/ADHD Websites:


Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and the daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent  forth.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
(Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet (1923) )

www.DIY & createIT/BG-ELT/

Written by: Desislava Zareva
Maria Momchilova
Those of you who are curious (or if you prefer resourceful) must have already clicked on the website in the title and found nothing. Before you give up thinking there is a break down in your Internet connection or the link is too slow to download, you must know that not everything that poses as a website is one. In other words, there is no such website yet. What you really need is to hit and join in the creative team.

What is the website?

It is one of the outcomes of a partnership project between the British Council, Bulgaria, The Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics at Plovdiv University and a team of ELT professionals from various Bulgarian educational institutions.
CreateIT stands for Creating Activities for Teaching English through Information Technologies – a project that aims at bringing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) at the fingertips of teachers of English who design materials for the classroom, as well as of students who wish to create activities for their peers or for themselves.

More about the CreateIT project

CreateIT (Creating Activities for Teaching English through Information Technologies) as the title suggests, is all about the effective application of modern technologies in the ELT classroom. It blends ICT and ELT materials design. It provides an intuitive interface specially designed to enable motivated teachers of EFL to develop and produce learning materials suitable for a variety of levels, age groups and purposes.
The web content is aimed at promoting good teaching practice in task design and lesson planning on a national/regional level.

How does the create IT environment work

The website is EZ to use and FUN to work with. Is has been designed and ‘tried’ on teachers so that its final version is both teacher and student – friendly.
In order to benefit from the website you need a computer (a must!) and access to the Internet.
In terms of required computer-and-word processing skills, you need to know how to switch the PC on and off, how to type, copy and paste a text and how to ZIP a file. As you can perform these actions off-line, speed does not matter provided the job is properly done. When/if you have prepared your materials in advance what is left to do is log in and follow the instructions for creating your own activity/lesson plan online.
Below we offer you some easy steps for designing and uploading your own learning materials and lesson plans using the createIT web environment.

CreateIT  lesson / activity planning steps

  • Go to
  • Register as a user with the email and password you’re given by the administrator
  • Find Lesson plans / Activity section
  • Click on ‘Create a Lesson Plan’
  • Fill in the required information

Hint: you DON’T HAVE to tick all the boxes you see, just the ones that you consider relevant)

  • Click on step 2 / 4
  • Fill in all the relevant information

Hint: once online you will see that hints are available to guide you  through the content of each box you need to fill in

  • Click on step 3 / 4
  • Fill in the required info

Hint 1: time spans will not be allowed, e.g. you are expected to write 5 min, 10 min, but not 5-10 min for the duration of each stage of the lesson / activity;
Hint 2 – the description of your procedures is as detailed as you want it to be;
Hint 3 – if you want to have 10 procedures each time click on ADD PROCEDURE button)

  • Click on step 4 / 4
  • Fill in all the relevant information

Hint: if you are planning to attach a file, you first  need to ZIP it, WINRAR will not work)

  • Click on FINISH when you’re ready
  • Preview your plan

Hint: you can make changes or delete your own activity / lesson plan, but you CANNOT edit other people’s materials)


Lessons From Nothing

Workshop given by Bonnie Tsai,
Pilgrims, Canterbury, England
I didn’t know you a year ago: making space for new knowledge or feelings; how the new fits or conflicts with the old.

  1. Ask students to sit or stand in a circle according to their age.
  2. Ask them if they remember what day of the week it was a year ago.
  3. Tell them something you didn’t know a year ago but know now.
  4. Ask students to think of something they didn’t know, hadn’t  experienced or felt a year ago.
  5. Each student finds their “age partner” and describes what it is that they learnt, experienced or felt.
  6. Ask them to think back to today’s date last month.  Ask them to think of something they didn’t know about English that they didn’t know then that they do now.

What seems to work best with learners are activities in which they can use their own knowledge, experience and resources.
Mood sharing dictation: Student-generated material is the best way to stimulate students.

  1. Ask students to tear a sheet of paper into three or four stripes.  The number will depend on the number of students in the class.
  2. Ask them to write a sentence on each stripe about the mood they are in and how they feel about themselves.  You might want to add your own.  After all you have feeling too.
  3. Collect the stripes.  Give students a dictation using their sentences.  You can correct any errors as you go along.
  4. Ask students to use two different colored pens during the dictation.  Ask them to write down everything they feel about themselves in one color and everything else in another.
  5. Ask them to read to each other the sentences they identified with.

Examples of sentences you might get are: I am very tired.  It’s almost time to go home and I am happy
Alternative: Ask students to make statements about what they understand about English.

Students set an exercise: This gives students practice in reading comprehension in a meaningful way.  At the same time it is excellent preparation for exams where multiple choice components are used.

  1. Explain to students that you are giving them a reading passage.  Their task is to read the passage and create 6 multiple choice questions on the content of the reading passage.
  2. Tell them that each question has 4 components; one is the correct answer and the other three are distracters.
  3. At the next class students do each others’ exercises.  Compare results.

Picture Stories: This is another activity based entirely on student-generated material.  It also works better in classes of at least 20 students.

  1. Ask each student to look through a magazine and bring in a picture they like or find interesting.  Working in groups of 4 to 6 they make a collage with their pictures.
  2. Groups exchange their collage with another group.  With their new collage they make a story linking all the parts of the collage.  When they have thought up the story, they practice narrating it so that each person can tell the story confidently.
  3. They form in pair with someone from the group they gave their collage to.  They tell each other the story.  They return to their group and reconstruct the story they heard.  They practice narrating it until they can tell it to the whole group.

Material and Clothes Pelminism: Students make their own game

  1. Ask students to make 10 identical slips of paper each.
  2. Students work in pairs.  One is A  and the other is B.  Dictate different items of clothes.  Student A writes each of these on a slip of paper.  Dictate different materials to Student B.  Alternate between dictating clothes and material.
  3. Pairs check each others’ slips for spelling mistakes.
  4. They make two piles; one with clothes and the other with material.
  5. They turn two slips of paper over and make an if sentence.

If my shoes were made from paper they wouldn’t last long.
If my socks were made from plastic they would be uncomfortable.

The Question Game: This activity leads students to work in cooperation as a team-a quality highly valued today.

  1. Think of a topic of interest to your students.  You could also use a story, new article or other text.
  2. Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to prepare 10 questions about the topic.  Ask them to write the questions individual on one side off a small pieces of paper and the answer on the other side.
  3. Groups put their pieces of paper together with the question side up.  They exchange questions with another group.
  4. Tell the class they are going to play a game and that the rules are:

The student with the longest hair begins.  He or she draws a card and reads the question out loud to the group.  Give 15 seconds to answer the question.
Each correct answer wins 1 point.  If the student doesn’t know the answer, he or she can ask some else in the group to answer it.  1 point is awarded to both students if the answer is correct.
Any answer can be challenged.  1 point is awarded for a correct challenge.
The Press Conference: This activity not only practices the 4 skills, more importantly it encourages students to listen to each other.

  1. Divide the class into teams.  Ask them to prepare a press conference on a topic/text/book.
  2. Each student should write 3 questions individually on slips of paper.
  3. Collect the questions and mix them up.
  4. Re-distribute them so that each student had 3 slips of paper.
  5. Assemble the press conference by asking each team to appoint one of its members to be a member of the press.
  6. Students take turns “firing” questions to the press.  Students should seek to ask questions in a sequence without being redundant.

All my names: This is a technique from Gestalt psychology

  1. Ask students to write all their names: first names, middle names, baptism name, nick names, last name and so on.
  2. Each student writes a letter from the core name to one of the others
  3. The other name replies.

Daydreams: Explore with students daydreaming versus thinking.
Write the word DAYDREAM up on the board and ask students to brainstorm their associations with the word.
Explain that there are two rules in brainstorming: Everything is acceptable and no one is contradicted.

  1. Using ideas from the brainstorm, ask students to write out 2 questions on daydreaming.
  2. Go around the room helping students with their questions as needed.
  3. Students dictate their questions to the group.  As they do so, you write them down on an OHP transparency or on the board making any corrections that are necessary.  At the end of the dictation, flash up the transparency so that students can correct their dictations.
  4. Group students together to ask and answer the questions about themselves.

Guess the Question:
Teacher dictates information about self which students take in turn to write up on the board.  Students guess the questions and as they get each question right the teacher rubs the answer off the board.
The teacher gives the students a choice of three activities:
write the questions
Write a profile for the teacher
Make a statement using each of the phrases
Alternative or extension: Students think of three factual questions to ask someone in the class.  They pass their questions to someone to get their answers.  Change partners and read only the answers.  Partner guesses the question.

Draw an ideal school

Collective student drawing on the school or other installation on the board.  In pairs students are given different tasks related to the picture.
1.       e.g. Is there/are there questions
How many/how much questions
Where is/where are questions
True/False questions
Questions you don’t know the answer to (to have answers with modals of deductions)
Supply an adjective and a verb for each item on the drawing
Re-pair students to ask and answer their questions.

  1. Labeling: Students reproduce the picture by writing vocabulary items in the position they occupy in the picture.  Students dictate the picture to their teacher to reproduce.
  2. Student description of picture: each student contributes one word to a group sentence or description of the picture.  Secretary writes it up on the board word by word.  Group edits their text.
  3. Text development: Once the text has been written up on the board, students can do the following:
    • add an adjective to every noun
    • add two words to every sentence
    • reduce the text to 15 words
    • Change the tense
    • finish it off
    • write what happened before
    • add adverbs to the verbs
    • Replace/change verbs/Nouns
    • make the sentence disappear

Student-generated sentences

  1. Divide students into pairs.  Ask them to prepare 10 stripes of paper.
  2. Pairs decide on 5 sentence using the structure to be practiced.  eg. past progressive, present perfect progressive, conditionals
  3. They write each half of their sentence on separate stripes of paper.
  4. Teacher collects the stripes and redistributes them.
  5. Students work in small groups to reconstruct their sentences. (Don’t worry if some of the sentences are silly)

Circulating 3 sheets of Paper: This activity is good for recapping.  It can be used for revision, predicting, discussion: for, against, neutral, roles: developing what a person might say, listening: 3 different listening groups, problem solving/ 3 types of reactions: questions, advice, instructions, 3 headings on the same subject

  1. Set up 3 groups and give a sheet of paper to each group.  You might want to use larger sheets of paper.  Appoint a secretary for each group.  Each of the 3 secretaries has a different sheet of paper.
  2. The members of the group give their ideas under the heading.  The secretary writes these down.
  3. Pass the paper to a new group who find further ideas to write down under the heading.  Continue on so that each group has contributed to each of the 3 headings.

The Elephant:

  1. Students shout out words they remember from a previous lesson;
  2. They draw an elephant and place the words on the parts of the parts of the elephant they associate them with.
  3. Pair off and discuss each other’s versions

Questions, Comments, and Answers: The 3 question forms how, why, and what if have strong provoking properties.  The last phase provokes intensive listening on the part of the 2 people who have previously worked on the questions.  This exercise allows students to consider a topic they have chosen from a rich variety of angles, provided by other students.

  1. Chose a topic and then write 3 questions beginning with How, 3 beginning with why, and 3 beginning with what if
  2. Pair students and tell them to ask and answer each others’ questions.
  3. Form groups by putting 2 pairs together and asking them to exchange questions.  They then answer the other pair’s questions.