Types of Students and Relevant Input

Written by: Milka Hadjikoteva, NBU
Among the myriad tests available in psychology books and on line (for example, enter the site http://www.queendom.com/tests/alltests.html) there are personality tests which measure the so called personal traits, temperaments, or dispositions. Supposedly these tests increase the ability to predict probable attitudes and behaviours that could ultimately influence the one’s success or failure. Many employers are interested in such tests due to the impact the personnel has on company’s profitability and efficiency.
One of these tests sprang up from a theory developed by the American psychologist John Holland who in 1995 received the prestigious American Psychological Association award for Distinguished Contributions to Knowledge for his theory of careers that “provided an intellectual tool for integrating our knowledge of vocational intentions, vocational interests, personalities, and work histories.” Holland’s theory presents a theoretical connection between personality and environment. While working as a classification interviewer with the army, Dr. Holland realized that many people seemed to be examples of common personality types. This led to his first formulation of the 6 basic categories in a person-environment typology. His classification system can be used for both persons and fields of study or occupations.
Thanks to the academic roots of the theory as well as its further applications, this session attempts to relate the results of surveys carried out to the relevance of the input in foreign language education in groups comprised of different types of students.
Many career assessment tools use the typology so that people can be categorized according to their interests and personal characteristics. The on-line version of the Self-Directed Search http://www.self-directed-search.comhas been designed to help people make career and education choices that match their own interests and abilities. It has been used by over 22 million people worldwide and has also been translated into 25 different languages. Its results have been supported by over 500 research studies.” (as written on the web page)
According to Holland there are six common personality types, namely Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. Not only people but occupations and work environments can also be classified by the same categories. If people and the respective environments they chose match, there is a high probability of both success and happiness. Holland suggests the presence of codes both in people and environments. If the codes are the same or similar, for example Investigative person in an Investigative environment, then the person will most likely function well and persist in that environment. If the environment is supportive and includes other people who have the same or similar personality traits, the personality can be easily expressed there. It is important that neither people nor environments are exclusively one type but rather combinations of all six types. Their dominant type is an approximation of an ideal, modal type.

A hexagon presented in Holland’s site is used to show the similarities and differences among the six types. Holland claims that types that are next to one another on the hexagon are most similar. For example, Realistic and Investigative types tend to have similar interests, but Realistic and Social types tend to be most different. Conventional types are related to Enterprising and Realistic types, however they are quite different from Social and Investigative types, but tend to be most different from Artistic types, and so on.
It is important to note that the theory had its roots in higher education and later focused on occupations. However, almost any social setting, e.g., a family-owned business, a classroom, or a work group, might be characterized in terms of an environment. Every aspect of the theory can be applied to different kinds of environments which is especially valuable for university environments preparing students for their professional fields.
Smart, Feldman, and Ethington (2000) examined longitudinal data over a four-year period of study (1986-1990) on approximately 2,309 college students participating in the Cooperative Institutional Research Program  which shed light on the expectations of students in academic environments. Holland’s six types together with some of the specific findings of Smart regarding the impact of the environment on different student types are summarized below. It will be noted that a match between the person and the environment indicates congruence, while the lack of it indicates incongruence.
The Investigative type in Holland’s typology pursues the careers of biologist, chemist, physicist, geologist, anthropologist, etc.; has abilities in the fields of math and science; likes to work alone and to solve problems, to explore and understand things or events, rather than persuade others or sell them things; and can be described as analytical,  complex, critical, intellectual, pessimistic, and reserved.
In Smart’s survey the Investigative academic environment has proved to develop analytical, mathematical, and scientific competencies, though little character and career development were observed. The teaching/learning style is described as formal and structured, subject-matter centred, having specific course requirements. The focus is put on examinations and grades. This environment has proved to increase students’ abilities and interests in the area, and make them even stronger if the students were Investigative type at entry, while Investigative students in disciplines outside of the Investigative environment did not increase their abilities and skills in the Investigative area.
The Artistic type pursues artistic careers: composer, musician, dancer, actor, and writer; has artistic skills, enjoys creating original work, and has a good imagination; likes to work with creative ideas and self-expression more than routines and rules. This type is described as complicated, disorderly, emotional, idealistic, and original.
Artistic environment in its turn focuses on aesthetics and emotions, sensations, and the mind. The curriculum prompts learning about literature and the arts, as well as becoming a creative thinker and its emphasis is on character development, student freedom and independence in learning with varied instructional strategies are used. Artistic students majoring in Artistic environments have shown stronger interests and abilities in this area. Students majoring in Artistic environments have shown an increase in Artistic abilities and interests. Artistic personalities not majoring in Artistic environments did not increase their self-rated interests and abilities over the four years of Smart’s survey.
Holland’s Social type pursues social careers: teacher, counselor, psychologist, nurse; likes to be around other people, interested in how people get along, and likes to help other people with their problems, teach, and counsel people more than engage in mechanical or technical activity. The type is described as convincing, cooperative, responsible, sympathetic, and warm.
The social environment presupposes community orientation characterized by friendliness and warmth, developing a historical perspective of the field and an emphasis on student values and character development. The focus is put on humanitarian, teaching, and interpersonal competencies. Colleagueship and student independence and freedom are supported, and informal small group teaching is employed. It has been observed that social disciplines seem to have the least impact and Social students reported the least gains in related interests and abilities. Stated another way, the Social environments appear to be the most accepting and least demanding of the four environments studied by Smart.
The Enterprising type is interested in the careers of a television producer, business executive, salesperson, travel agent, supervisor, manager and is able to act as a leader and speak in public; likes money and politics, as well as to influence people and persuade or direct others more than work on scientific or complicated topics; described as ambitious, domineering, impulsive, self-confident, and sociable.
The Enterprising environment has been characterised as preparing for career and status acquisition, focused on leadership development as well as the acquisition and use of power to attain career goals. The teaching strategies are balanced. Enterprising students have increased their Enterprising abilities and interests, which has been also true for non-Enterprising students in the Enterprising environment. Enterprising students not majoring in Enterprising environments have not increased their self-rated Enterprising abilities and interests.
The two types described by Holland though not elaborated on in the survey of Smart due to the lack of impact such environments have had on their students are the Realistic type pursuing the careers of mechanic, electrician, and farmer with abilities in the mechanical and athletic fields, whose preferences are to work outdoors, with tools and machines more than with people and is described as honest, materialistic, persistent, practical, and thrifty and the Conventional type pursuing the careers of a bookkeeper, banker, secretary, who likes to work indoors, to organize things, to follow routines and meet clear standards, avoiding work that does not have clear directions; described as careful, efficient, obedient, orderly, persistent, practical, thrifty, and unimaginative.
In summary, it is apparent that congruent students in Investigative, Artistic, and Enterprising environments increased their pattern of self-reported interests and abilities over four years by further developing what was already present in their personality. These three environments also increased these related traits for incongruent students, but the gap between the congruent and incongruent students continues to exist. Though it is not possible to expect that all students progress in the same way, it is evident that students in congruent environments have higher levels of interests and abilities. Investigative and Enterprising environments have been observed to have the most impact on student characteristics.
The foreign language classroom environment is comprised of students who choose majors that match their own types (congruent) as well as students who change their majors or do not fit the environment (incongruent). Both categories of students should be encouraged to study in their own style and at their own pace. Investigative and Enterprising environments are observed to both develop analytical, mathematical, and scientific competencies and prepare for career and status acquisition, focusing on leadership development as well as the acquisition and use of power to attain career goals, which are in fact the aims of higher education in general. In this line of thinking it is reasonable to adapt the style of teaching to formal and structured requirements and at the same time focus it on the specific subjects, i.e. subject-matter centered. It is not enough to pay attention to examinations and grades but to increase students’ abilities and interests in their own areas.
In this case the issue of the relevant input becomes of utmost importance. How much input is enough, relevant, and comprehensible? Krashen has made an attempt to explain the acquisition process using a model in which the comprehensible input plays the crucial part. The input goes through an affective filter which according to the Affective Filter Hypothesis is ‘a mental block, caused by affective factors … that prevents input from reaching the language acquisition device’ (Krashen, 1985, p.100). The Language Acquisition Device can be thought of as a program which enables the learner to set the parameters of the Universal Grammar, a specific module at the base of all human languages which handles any specific language, and consists of a series of parameters which are set differently for different languages.
In the case of the suggested schema, the affective filter may be regarded as one of the major features in student’s aptitude to master a foreign language. The greater the incongruence between the students in a particular group, the stronger the affective filter will be. It may inhibit the mastery of a foreign language, though it is doubtful whether it is going to block the LAD leading to the universal grammar patterns, in case the latter do exist, of course.

According to Krashen’s Acquisition/Learning Hypothesis  ‘adults have two distinctive ways of developing competences in second languages .. acquisition, that is by using Language for real communication … learning .. “knowing about” language’ (Krashen & Terrell 1983). The only way to use language for real communication in the foreign language classroom is to engage students in meaningful activities related to their fields of study. The knowledge about language goes hand in hand with the subject-matter centred knowledge and can easily function as a monitor of the flow of “specialized” flow of language. (Krashen’s Monitor Hypothesis claims that ‘conscious learning … can only be used as a Monitor or an editor’ (Krashen & Terrell 1983)).
If relevant input is the essential part of the foreign language acquisition, it should be the main focus in the process of teaching. “Comprehensible” input in this case means analysis of the style and features of subject-matter centred texts, grammar-related clarifications, and terminology issues which may take place during the initial Silent Period, through which every learner of a foreign language goes, i.e. the development of analytical, mathematical, and scientific competencies students need to deal with a language typical of the Investigative Environment, followed by the traits of the Enterprising environment, preparing for career and status acquisition, i.e. presenting materials, discussing issues, and giving short talks which presuppose not only knowledge but the implementation of the respective competencies as well.
The relevant input can be provided via various activities, i.e.

  1. Affective-Humanistic activities (dialogues, interviews, personal charts and tables, preference ranking, personal information, strategies development, all of which focus on analytical thinking as well as use of language)
  2. Problem-solving activities (describing processes and tasks, charts, graphs, maps, developing speech for particular occasions, advertisements, typical for both academic and professional environments)
  3. Content activities, e.g. academic subject matter (The most important thing is students’ own choice of materials to be analysed, processed and presented in different styles and even registers).

It is claimed that immersion teaching is successful because it provides comprehensible input and that bilingual programs succeed to the extent they provide the above-mentioned input. Though it is difficult to provide immersion in a non-native environment, it is possible to provide comprehensible input which is at a bit higher level than the level of the students. In Krashen’s terms it is the “i+1” (“input+a bit more”). The “a bit more”, in my opinion, means exactly the subject-matter terminology and materials in the students’ specific fields. Because any foreign language teaching devoid of the forethought for professional development of the respective students aims at achieving abstract skills applicable in imaginary circumstances. Real life situations related to the pursuit of career are much more important than the abstract ones, that is why the comprehensible input provides the much needed background for meaningful communication. Naturally, the lower the level of the students, the more structured and formal the teaching methods are, whereas the sooner professionally-oriented activities are introduced, the more comprehensible the input becomes.
In conclusion, let’s wrap up with what successful bilingual education means in Krashen’s views: “Properly organized bilingual education programs introduce subject matter teaching in English as soon as it can be made comprehensible and provide a great deal of instruction in English.” Stephen Krashen, (Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California, Rossier School of Education, wrote for Teacher Magazine, available on-line at www.edweek.com)
Gregg, K. (1984). Krashen’s monitor and Occam’s razor. Applied Linguistics, 5, 79-100.
Holland, J. L. (1973). Making vocational choices: A theory of careers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Holland, J. L., Reardon, R. C., Latshaw, R. J., Rarick, S. R., Schneider, S., Shortridge, M. A., & St. James, S. A. (2001). Self-Directed Search Form R Internet Version 2.0 [On-line]. Available: http://www.self-directed-search.com.
Krashen, S.D. (1982). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. New York, Longman.
Krashen, S.D. & Terrell, T.D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. London: Prentice Hall Europe.
Smart, J. C., Feldman, K. A., & Ethington, C. A. (2000). Academic disciplines: Holland’s theory and the study of college students and faculty. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

The pedagogical portfolio or commitment to professional development

Written by: Svetlana Dimitrova and Svetlana Tashevska, New Bulgarian University
Another portfolio? Why? What’s in it? Who is it for? Is there anything in it for me?
No matter if you are a university lecturer/methodologist or a student-teacher, a head-teacher or head of staff, a mentor or a practicing teacher – committed to professionalism and career development, the Pedagogical Portfolio can be an invaluable tool for personal growth and an informative record of professional achievement. Just read on and decide for yourself.
The Pedagogical Portfolio for Foreign Language Teacher Trainees has been created in the spirit of modern European tendencies in Foreign Language Teaching and the recommendations of the Council of Europe for unified, commensurable standards of teacher education and foreign language teachers’ work and development. It involves collection of varied evidence documenting professional preparation, acquired experience and level of pedagogical competence (Dimitrova & Tashevska, 2005 [1]). This is what distinguishes it from the number of European language portfolios, whose purpose is to reflect the language biography and competence of the different target groups learning a foreign language. This Pedagogical Portfolio is unique in its character in that it is directed at language teaching professionals – student-teachers, mentors, methodologists, practising teachers, directors of studies, heads of staff, experts from regional inspectorates of the Ministry of Education and Science. For everybody committed to professionalism and career development, it can be an invaluable tool for personal growth and an informative record of professional achievement.
The Pedagogical Portfolio is based on the substantial experience of a team of New Bulgarian University lecturers, including consultants from the British Council, Bulgaria. The materials in it have their roots in the best of Bulgarian and international educational traditions in teacher training and preparation of foreign language teachers and were tried out in practice for a period of over eight years. A lot of student-teachers, mentors, university lecturers took part in the piloting and contributed valuable feedback and suggestions for useful revision.
To the best of our knowledge, a portfolio of this kind (both in terms of content and format) is a pioneering initiative. One created by a team of professionals, with the support of the British Council, Romania, is for novice teachers (in-service). Another one was made for the purposes of teaching practice at Sofia University but it contains little support for its users.
This Pedagogical Portfolio is meant to assist teachers to:

  • regularly document and keep a record of the acquired pedagogical experience, both during their education at the university and while teaching within the system of Bulgarian education;
  • organize and present in a systematic way the evidence for their pedagogical competence and for the quality of their work in the classroom during internal or external forms of inspection;
  • develop skills for reflection, critical awareness and self-evaluation of their work and achievements;
  • define clear, objective aims and priorities for growth and professional development.

In order for the Portfolio to be used by teachers of different foreign languages, it has been developed in two languages. The first part, presented consecutively in English and Bulgarian, offers practical advice on the logistics of foreign language teachers’ preparation and/ or development and some guidelines for structuring the information included in the Pedagogical Portfolio in three sections:

  1. nature and content of the pursued and/ or obtained pedagogical degree or qualification, including any information on additional professional qualifications or professional development;
  2. university-based professional training;
  3. school-based professional training and work and/ or experience as a school practitioner.

In addition, “good” teaching practice, which should be the aim for each professional, is described in this part (see Practical Teaching Objectives). It also includes the criteria for assessing the work of foreign language student-teachers in the classroom (in the English version only). As these criteria have only been used in assessing the work of English language teacher trainees, and not piloted with other languages, they were not included in the Bulgarian version. This ‘deficiency’ will hopefully be compensated for by the outcomes of a current educational partnership project of British Council, Bulgaria and the Ministry of Education and Science. This project aims at producing a unified set of criteria for assessing the work of practising language teachers in the classroom (Dimitrova & Tashevska, 2004).
The second part of the Pedagogical Portfolio comprises a wide range of support materials – various sample structured classroom observation sheets, a lesson plan template, mentor feedback forms, self-evaluation questionnaires, etc.. These reflect the basic theoretical principles translated into specific questions about their realisation in classroom practice. All appendices are developed in such a way that they can be directly applied in practice – photocopiable and in two languages (one side – in English, the other – in Bulgarian). This offers flexibility for applying and taking into account the specific needs of different foreign languages, as well as of specific teaching context.
At the end of the Pedagogical Portfolio a list of contemporary methodology reference literature is provided to additionally facilitate (student-) teachers’ development.
Uniting various components of open-ended nature, the Pedagogical Portfolio contributes to the formation of an autonomous, reflective practitioner. In this respect, the figure of a puzzle can be a good metaphor of the complex construct of the foreign language teacher’s professional competence, as well as of the Pedagogical Portfolio as a tool for its reflection. In other words, pedagogical competence and a teacher’s work are difficult to adequately illustrate and/ or evaluate only through a single lesson, a certificate or a diploma for the respective qualification, or a paper from a professional forum. However, when these documents have been collected and arranged together, as in the Pedagogical Portfolio, the mosaic of various components begins to acquire more complete and tangible dimensions, presenting the multi-faceted character of this evasive entity in a fuller and clearer picture. The puzzle is also a metaphor of the incessant process of professional development and improvement, of the open-ended system of pedagogical competence in which the newly-acquired professional knowledge and skills integrate with the teaching experience gathered.
In conclusion, the application of the Pedagogical Portfolio could lead to:

  • increasing the effectiveness of foreign language teacher education (including the quality of foreign language teaching done by student-teachers during teaching practice);
  • contributing to the growth of autonomous, reflective practitioners, capable of continuous professional development;
  • increasing the validity, reliability and transparency of assessment through introducing measurable standards of work and unified assessment criteria of professional competence for the (student-) teachers of different foreign languages in response to current European Union developments and recommendations;
  • improving the relationship between the university and the school (tertiary education and the demands of full-time employment in teaching) through better information about the requirements to the student-teachers, the stages and methods of their education and assessment of the acquired professional skills;
  • optimizing the information for possible future employers regarding the content and the quality of the professional qualification of prospective teachers and their potential for professional development.

Some participants’ impressions of the Pedagogical Portfolio:

“I found using the Pedagogical Portfolio very useful for my teaching practice. First of all it helped me organise all the stages of my practice – from the observations to the teaching itself. Secondly, it was very useful and time-saving in terms of requirements, procedures and information needed for a successful teaching practice of a trainee without much experience. And last but not least, filling the portfolio I could see the results of my work, which was a rewarding experience.”
Radostina Vassileva, a student teacher at New Bulgarian University

“An exceptionally comprehensive and very apt tool for any FLT trainee.
In the light of mentoring principles it appears to be an indispensable guide which will lead FLT trainees to become mature, confident and creative teachers in an extremely demanding classroom environment. Moreover, it provides them with a compact overview of all their experience and accomplishments!  My congratulations to the authors!”

Margarita Papasova, a senior teacher of English and mentor

“What I find most useful is the set of criteria for assessment of teaching – it’s the first time I have seen such a document published in Bulgaria.”
Irina Uzunova, a school teacher

“An interesting idea and – in light of the Council of Europe’s recommendations for learners in the Common European Framework – necessary concept: to have teachers practice what they preach to students by documenting in a dossier their own life-long learning and professional development. I am impressed by your work.
Gary Anderson, international teacher trainer, Eurasia

In my opinion the Pedagogical Portfolio could be a valuable tool not only for the teacher-trainees but for practising teachers too. With a slight change, it could be a personal professional file for any English teacher and could be a lifelong record of professional experience and development.
On the other hand, the materials, developed by the NBU team, could be used in the language schools as well – in their systems for appointing new teachers, for teacher training and for appraisal procedures. The variety of samples of questionnaires, lesson plans, observation sheets, etc. could easily be adapted for the needs of any school.
I’m grateful to the team for sharing the results of their research with us.

Irina Nalbantian, a teacher of English and a director of studies


  1. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Council of Europe, Modern Languages Division, Strasbourg. Cambridge University Press, 2003
  2. Dimitrova & Tashevska (2004): Димитрова, С. и Ташевска, С. “Единни критерии за оценка на работата на учителя по чужд език в класната стая”, Чуждоезиково обучение, кн. 5/2004, стр. 21-41
  3. Dimitrova, S. & Tashevska, S. (2005) Pedagogical Portfolio for Foreign Language Teacher-Trainees, Sofia: New Bulgarian University

[1] Copies can be ordered at “NBU-Litera” bookshop, 21 Montevideo blvd., Sofia 1618, litera@nbu.bg.

Making homework work

Written by: Syana Harizanova
This workshop addresses some of the problems we, teachers, as well as our students face with homework. The participants will be looking at ways of making homework more interesting, stimulating and worthwhile so that it can turn into a positive experience for both learners and teachers.
Part One:

1. Warm-up:
The participants are asked to recall the latest homework they gave to their students before coming to the Conference. If they feel like it, they can talk about it to the person sitting next to them. (Why they gave it? Do they expect their students to do it? What will they do if some students do it very badly or don’t do it at all? etc.) They do not have to report their conversations to the audience.
In plenary, the participants decide on whether homework is necessary and whether they believe in it. (They might have to vote on this.)
2. Do you agree? (An opinion survey + Discussion)
The participants read agree/disagree statements about homework (see Appendix) and tick accordingly.
The results are summed up on OHT (or on the board) and analysed in plenary. Conclusions about the implications for the classroom are drawn. It can be expected that the teachers will agree that they should make sure

  • HW is enjoyable
  • children are capable of accomplishing the task successfully
  • they use listening, speaking and reading activities to prepare children for their written work at home
  • children feel their appreciation for good work when they correct their writing
  • they are not simply looking for mistakes
  • they comment on their achievements
  • they display children’s written work, etc.

Part Two:

In the second part of the workshop, the participants are invited to take the role of their students and do a number of homework tasks. Each task is then discussed in terms of suitability, possible adaptations or changes, potential problems, etc. The tasks are organised according to their level of difficulty, length and time-consumption.
Some of the ideas have been borrowed and/or adapted from Writing with Children by J. Reilly and V. Reilly. (2005, OUP), Assessing Young Learners by Ioannou-Georgiu and P.Pavlou (2003, OUP) and Homework by L. Painter (2003, OUP).
Most of the tasks, however, are the result of numerous experiments and improvisations, based on personal and shared classroom experience.
Early writing (word level)
•  Sorting words

Aim: to make copying meaningful

  • Sort the words on the left under the headings on the right:
    (Encourage children to add at least one more word to each list.)

parts of the body

  • Sort the animals panda, elephant, fox, hippopotamus, whale, giraffe, snake, kangaroo:

biggest to smallest                  Africa   / Asia   / Australia                  land  / water  / sky
________________                ______   ______   ______                  _____  _____  _____

  • Sort these animals into a table: rabbits, dogs, sharks, bats, cheetahs, rhinos, parrots, snakes, cats, penguins, hedgehogs.
are pets. eat meat. have long tails. can run fast. can’t swim can fly.

Encourage children to add (at least) one more word to each list.
One-sentence homework
•  Creating a book page
Aim: to integrate reading/listening to a story with simple writing; to make children aware of the importance of the drafting/editing stage of the writing process
Pre-writing activities – Making a draft – Writing proper – Book compilation

  • Talk about kinds of animals (animals that fly, swim, walk or crawl; wild animals or farm animals; pets or animals in the zoo).
  • Make lists on the board.
  • From the board, children make a list of their favourite animals in their notebook.
  • Children choose one to write about – the one that they like best. They circle it.
  • Children each fold a A4 to make two sides, and write the name of their animal at the top. Under the name, at the top of the left-hand side, Children write can and on the opposite side cannot. Then they write things their animal can do, e.g. see in the dark, on the left, and things it cannot do, e.g. swim, on the right.


  • On the back of the A4, children write some sentences about their animal, using the can/cannot chart. Then they think of how the sentences can be linked, using and or but. The teacher checks for spelling or punctuation mistakes.
  • Children make their book page: on a clean sheet of paper, they draw or stick a picture of their animal and neatly copy their sentences below the picture.
  • Children put the separate pages in ABC order, and make A Book about Animals.
  • If other classes have done the same, they can swap Class Books.

Sentence flap books
Aim: to practise sentence structure, to look at grammar in simple sentences, to combine writing with some basic craft, to have fun

  • Fold several sheets of paper in half and staple them in a line about 1 cm in from the folded edge.
  • Cut the book into three sections from the open edge to the stapled spine.
  • Write sentences consisting of a pronoun, verb, and noun, e.g. I like cats. Make sure that the pronoun is in the top flap, the verb in the middle, and the noun at the bottom. (Focus on ‘s’ for 3 p.sg.)
  • Create a humorous version – Do you like …..in/on/under/behind your …..?, e.g. Do you like ketchup in your soup? Do you like toothpaste on your wafer?,etc.

Alliterative sentences / Tongue twisters
Aim: to let children play with the language, to get them work with a dictionary, to stimulate their creativity and imagination.

  • Give some examples of sentences where most of the words begin with the same letter or sound, e.g. Ellie the elephant eats eggs in the evenings. Ask Ss what’s unusual about it. Show some more examples:
    Smooth snakes slide silently.
    Busy Brenda buys bananas.
    Silly Sarah wears sweaters on sunny summer days.
    Perfect Peter plays the piano perfectly.
  • Draw four bubbles on the board.
  • Elicit verbs and write them inside Bubble One, e.g. play, eat, sing.
  • Encourage students to find names and nouns starting with the same letter as the verbs, e.g. Peter, Polly, Patricia/ Earnest, Edward, Emily/ Susan, Sally, Stephen … peaches, pens, piano, paper, packet/ elephant, end, egg, eraser/ sun, song, star, sand….
  • Repeat the procedure with adjectives.
  • In pairs, students choose a word beginning with the same letter from each bubble to make a sentence.
  • Variation: Work through a couple of letters from the alphabet together in class to demonstrate the process. Then for homework, give each child 2 letters from the ABC to write sentences with. Encourage them to work with a (picture) dictionary!

Creative writing (text level)
•  Dictate a puzzle
Aim: to provide a reason for listening and writing in class and for reading and writing at home – to work out the solution
Look for a puzzle like the following one or create one yourself.

A blind man is in prison. He is sitting in a room. It’s a very small room, and it has only got one small window through which the sun shines. The room is empty – there is no bed, no chair and no table. The blind man is playing with two marble balls – one white and the other black. They are absolutely the same in size. The blind man will be free if he can tell which ball is black and which is white.
Can you help him find this out?

Key: He should put the balls where the sunshine falls through the window. (He can feel the place without seeing it.) After some time, the black ball will be warmer as it will have absorbed the sunshine.
Follow-up: Students find similar puzzles in children’s magazines and translate them into English. The teacher collects, corrects and repeats the procedure with the whole class.

•  Write your own comprehension questions (Can be combined with ‘Dictate a puzzle’ from above)
Aim: to provide practice in writing questions in English as well as in reading for detailed information
•  Pocket stories
Aim: to help students write a story using prompts (realia)

  • At the end of a lesson, organise students into pairs and ask them to take out three things from their pockets or bags. (Encourage them by taking things from your own.)
  • Ask students to writ e a six-sentence story which includes the three items from their partner’s pocket or bag.
  • In the next lesson, ask students to read their stories to their partners.

•  Pass the story
Aim: to make story writing a collaborative experience, with plenty of anticipation and fun
who? (characters)
when? (time, e.g. old times/ now/ the future/…)
where? (location/place, e.g. a city/a village/ the forest/ a castle/a spaceship… )
a beginning
a complication/problem
an end or resolution
(a possible twist at the end)

  • In class, ask students to decide on a who-when-where matrix for their story. For homework, students work the first part of the story (the beginning)
  • In the next lesson, collect their work, correct it and redistribute it so that each student receives someone else’s work. For homework, students write the continuation of the story they have been given.
  • Repeat the procedure with the end/resolution.
  • In the end, each story will be finished as a result of the collaborative writing of 3 different students.
  • If students enjoyed the task, repeat the process and ask them to write a twist this time.

•  Design your own homework task
Aim: to give the students the responsibility of creating a homework task for their class

Each student gets the following card

Mission: design a ‘super’ task
Your mission is to design a homework activity which you think will really improve your English. It should be something that you WANT to do and CAN do.
The activity must be fun, something that everyone will have time to do, and it should be creative! Then we’ll set your classmates the homework!


Yes No Not sure
Homework should be seen by students as a routine.
Difficult home assignments can be used as a punishment.
Marking written HW eats up too much time.
Students don’t do their HW because they have no time.
Students don’t do their HW because they are not motivated.
Most students tend to copy answers since they have too many other subjects.
Students often come under peer pressure to under-perform.
Students will do things they enjoy.
Homework creates an autonomous learner.
Feedback is one of the most motivating forces that keeps
students doing their homework.

Using Humour in the Primary Classroom

Written by: Valentina Kikerkova, ELTAM, Macedonia
Download appendix in MS Word .DOC format | Adobe .PDF format
Humour helps the students to reduce barriers, increase networking potential, inspire positive attitudes, building positive relationships, refresh the mind, after “serious activity” and release stress. Teachers can use jokes at the beginning of the lesson, as a warm up activity or at he end of it.
The doctors say that humour is the best medicine. Why don `t we use humour in the classroom? If the students are smiling or laughing they probably fell relaxed and this contributes for better learning. Humour helps the students to reduce barriers, increase networking potential, inspire positive attitudes, building positive relationships, refresh the mind, after “serious activity” and release stress. Teachers can use jokes at the beginning of the lesson, as a warm up activity or at he end of it. They can be used both with children and adult learners. Laughter can help students forget their learning problems and give them courage to face them. Laughing makes learning easier.
One quality of a good language teacher is the good sense of humour.  Teachers of course do not need to be stand-up comedians but to have the ability to tell jokes effectively is a valuable skill which a teacher should posses.
Importance for jokes` memorability
Jokes are considered as memorable and like proverbs, rhymes and quotations are part of our memory and will always come out to our lips automatically in certain situations. Jokes, quotes and proverbs are self-contained and complete. They are not meaningless fragments of the language like we often find in the textbooks.
Jokes, quotes and proverbs need to have the following important requirements for  “memorability”:

  • They are short
  • They are meaningful
  • They have strong linguistic patterns
  • They are completed and self-contained
  • They are interesting and/or useful

Many English jokes are not funny at all. They depend on their effects of puns, homonyms, and homophones and are perfect instrument to practice stress, intonation, and individual sounds.
Here are some examples of my student `s favourites:

1. “Knock, Knock!
Who is there?
Doughnut who?
Doughnut open until Christmas.”

2. “Knock, Knock!
Who`s there?
Mice who?
Mice to meet you.”

3. “Knock, Knock!
Who`s there?
Doris who?
Doris slammed my finger. OUCH!”

But, I have to point out that the use of jokes, quotations, question and answer; funny cartoons do not replace the regular work with the textbooks. I am presenting you a couple of activities that can be used during the classes to break every day class routine.

  1. Practice in pairs – find out your partner circulate through the room and perform the joke (question and answer).
  2. Dictate a joke –students divide a peace of paper into two columns headed “Question” and “Answer” .The teacher dictates questions and answers in random, as the students listen they write them in the correct place.
  3. Put the joke in the correct order. Find some short jokes (possibly in dialogues) cut them in pieces. Give task to your students to put the joke in correct order. Then students perform the best jokes.
  4. Fill a gap – It is a way to escape of the routine of practicing vocabulary. It is important to mention that longer jokes better work in this activity or sometimes you can use two jokes.
  5. Put the verb in the correct form. This activity also better works with longer jokes. But it is a good way to make the students revise using tenses in context.
  6. Using cartoons- Find out the correct quotation. You need some cartoons with quotations, cut them stick them on pieces of cardboard mix the cartoons and quotations divide the class into groups. Give time and the students complete cartoons and quotations. You can even use cartoons and ask the students to give their own comment although it isn’t right. Later the correct answer can be given.

The use of jokes, question and answer exercises do not replace the textbooks. They can be just use at the beginning of the lesson as warm-ups to get the lesson off to a good start, or in the middle of the lesson to fit the text book, or at the end of a lesson on a high note. They create positive atmosphere of the whole course.

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The Creative Teacher

Based on the workshop, Creative Resources
by Bonnie Tsai

A creative person is curious, experimental, adventurous, playful, and intuitive.  In our society, we tend to view certain kinds of people, like artists, scientists, and inventors as being creative.  But what about teachers?  We’re all born with creativity, and if you believe you are a creative person you will find ways of using this creativity in your teaching.  All it takes is an inquisitive mind, a willingness to take risks, and the drive to make things work-three qualities that are available to anyone.
Take a few moments to think about a time when you reached a goal or accomplished something when the situation seemed hopeless.  You were stumped, or trapped, or caught in a bind you’d never been in before.  But you found a way.  That’s creativity.

Maybe you even had the experience of inventing something or coming up with an idea only to find it already exists in a store or in a book.  This just means that some clever person just took your idea a few steps further.
Thinking creatively almost always comes out of what you already know or from knowledge borrowed from other people.  Take for example teacher’s resource books.
Very often we read about an idea and we think, “Oh I’ve been doing that for years” or we think, “Oh, I know what I can do.  I can change this and that and it will be perfect for my group.”
Recognise that all your novel little solutions are the result of real creativity, and give yourself a little pat on the back.  You’ll start to feel more confident in your ability to explore and come up with ways and means, which will make your teaching more satisfying to yourself and your students.
Here are some ways you can become a more creative teacher.
First of all, remember your past successes, both small and large.  These are valuable resources, because if you did it once you can do it again.  Remind yourself of that when you’re looking for a new way to do something.
Remember that failure leads to success.  Many great inventors and scientists lived through countless failures before becoming successful.  So be willing to take the risk of being wrong in order to arrive at getting it right.
You can train yourself and your students to be creative through playing mental games.  Your brain like other parts of your body needs to be kept in good condition.  Here are some techniques you can use.
*Think of new uses for old things
*Invent metaphors to describe something to someone.
*Listen to Baroque Music.  These composers used very specific beats and patterns that automatically synchronise our minds and bodies.  It thus allows you to work in a state of harmony conducive to creative thinking.
*Do crossword puzzles and other word games
*Look at scenes from everyday life and make up stories that could have led to them.  The newspaper or just personal observation will provide you with a rich source of material.
*Don’t forget to listen to your right brain speaking.  Many times dreams and fantasies are products of your subconscious mind working on solutions to a problem.  Listen to them even if they seem farfetched, because wild dreams to lead to innovative solutions.  This is the basis of all good brainstorming.
*Play!  Let the inner child come out and provide fresh insight.
Two techniques, which are useful to creative teaching, are Outcome Thinking and Paradigm Shifts.
Outcome Thinking is positive as opposed to problem solving which can often be negative.  Outcome thinking concentrates on finding solutions and therefore you align yourself with success.
Here is a little activity you can do with Outcome Thinking.  Think about a present situation in your teaching, which you don’t like and would like to change.  Write it down on the left side of a piece of paper.  Go to the opposite side and write down how you would like the situation to be.  This would be your desired outcome  In the middle do a little personal brainstorming of all the possible ways you could accomplish this change.
Doing an activity like this can be fun and can be a real aid in decision-making.  Sometimes you may even find out that you don’t want a change.
A Paradigm Shift is about learning to think differently.  A paradigm is a set of rules we use for evaluating new information.  Everyone’s paradigms are based on what their life experience has been.  Paradigms are useful, but they are also limiting.  They are outside your frame of reference so therefore you don’t always acknowledge the existence of having other ways of doing something.  This can come out in teaching with statements like, “My class is too large to do that kind of activity.”  That is because there is a paradigm or rule about what you can do successfully with large groups.  But if you ask the questions, “how can I do more
learner-centered activities with large groups?”  another idea of working with large groups may occur to you.  Perhaps you will re-think your classroom management or ways of organising the classroom or even your role as a teacher.  This will open up the doors to all sorts of possibilities.  The next time you’re face with a challenging situation, look at it from different angles and redefine the problem if necessary by asking the question, “What would happen if I used a more learner-centered approach
With my large group of students?”
Another important way of becoming a creative teacher is the use of art.  Art assists in a natural way.  Looking at art and talking about art invites and encourages learners to use their imagination in astounding ways, because art encourages thoughtful attention to discover what it has to show and tell.  Also art connects to social and personal dimensions of life in powerful affective ways.  Students of all ages respond to this aspect of art, because it speaks to their intermost beliefs and values.  If you want a bit of real magic in your classroom chose a picture, which tells a story like Bruegel’s The Letter.  Ask the group to Brainstorm all the questions they are curious to have the answers to.  Examples of questions might be, is the young girl in the picture sending or receiving a letter?  What sounds can you imagine in the room? Or even more technical questions like, where is the light coming from?
The questions never stop, because the more one looks at the picture, the deeper and deeper one goes to the “story” being told in the picture.
Students next chose one or two questions to answer always being ready to support their answer with some evidence found in the picture.  The discussion goes on and on and interest never flags.
Here are some important features of art, which make it a strong creative learning context:
*It provides sensory anchoring.  It stimulates and moves learners to want to speak.
*It has instant access.  Any point of discussion can be instantly checked through asking questions like, “What do you see in the picture which supports what you are saying” or simply by asking the group to look closer.
*Art is made to draw and hold attention.  This means that you can encourage a prolonged reflection.
*Although we tend to think of art as visual, looking at art recruits many kinds of cognition-visual processing, analytical thinking, posing questions, testing hypotheses, verbal reasoning and many more.
Finally, thinking of a lot of different ways to do the same thing is an important ingredient to creativity.  Take Mozart as your inspiration. He found 12 variations of on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  How many different ways can you find to go your favourite classroom techniques?
Lots of acknowledgements to N.L.P. and my trainers and friends who have given and shared their understanding.  Pilgrims in Canterbury runs a teacher training course several times a year called The Creative Teacher.


People learn in proportion to how fully they use their senses.  You learn through your senses-by seeing things, hearing them, and feeling things, you even learn by smelling and tasting.  One of the most useful ways to engage the senses and teach learners how to think is through the arts.
First of all art requires thinking.  Art must be thought through.  Secondly, thoughtful looking at art has instrumental value.  It provides an excellent setting for the development of better thinking.  We can learn to use our minds better through looking at art.  Art assists us in a natural way.  Looking at art invites, rewards and encourages a thoughtful tendency, enthusiasm, and commitment.  This is because works of art connect to the personal and social dimensions of life with strong affective overtones.  So, better than most other situations, looking at art can build some very basic thinking dispositions.
Below are some reasons why art is especially supportive:
*Sensory anchoring.  It’s helpful to have a physical object to focus on as you think and talk and learn.  This comes naturally with art.
*Instant access.  The presence of the work of art in the original or in reproduction, permits checking any point or argument or seeking new ideas by looking closer and yet still closer and closer.
*Personal engagement.  Works of art are made to draw and hold attention.  This helps to sustain prolonged reflection around them.
*Dispositional atmosphere.  The aim here is to cultivate thinking dispositions -broad attitudes, tendencies, and habits of thinking.
*Wide-spectrum cognition.  Although we tend to think of art as primarily a visual phenomenon, looking at art thoughtfully recruits many kinds and styles of cognition, visual processing, analytical thinking, posing questions, testing hypotheses, verbal reasoning and more.
*Multi -connectedness.   Art typically allows and encourages rich connection making with social themes, features or formal structure, personal anxieties and insights.  This belief list reveals something of why art is so special and all of these are skills vitally needed in the world today.  It is not often the case that we can learn so much in the presence of something as compelling as art.  Art is an opportunity.  Let’s not miss it.

All you need is … POP

Written by: Desislava Zareva , New Bulgarian University Because this writing is long and uses advanced formatting, it’s also available for download in MS Word .DOC format
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The following activities were initially designed as a part of self – study courseware  accompanying  a teacher training course ‘Studying Culture’ delivered in four Bulgarian universities: New Bulgarian University, Sofia University, Plovdiv University and University of Veliko Turnovo. However, some of  tasks have been also piloted with English language students at NBU and proved suitable for both training students’   intercultural and linguistic skills.
Thus the activities I offer below have two basic purposes:

  • To acquaint you and your students with some of the theoretical works which appeared in the 20th century and aimed to explicate the nature of popular culture in general and popular music in particular
  • To provide you and your students with a number of methodological tools that will enable you (and your students) to critically approach and analyze examples of popular music.

Once you have completed the activities you should be able to:

  • Approach examples of popular music from two theoretical standpoints – that of the Frankfurt School (with Theodor Adorno as its main bard) and that of postmodernism
  • Analyze popular music as an outcome of the music industry
  • Relate examples of popular music to respective cultures and subcultures they are part of
  • Conduct different types of small-scale research employing ethnographic research methods: questionnaires, interviews, participant observation, field work.

The following six activities have been designed to cover no more than ten hours of study. Each of them focuses on one particular issue related to popular music studies. The activities, though to a great degree self-contained, are best completed in the sequence suggested below.
They can easily be adapted to the purposes of your own classroom and changed in accordance to the needs of your own students.
I have selected a number of reading texts, which, without being exhaustive, throw light on theories still influential in popular music studies. You are not expected to whole-heartedly embrace them and take any of the findings for granted. Rather, I would like you to approach them with the necessary degree of criticism, taking into consideration both their weak and strong points. There also included texts introducing particular case studies, which will draw you your attention to various aspects of popular music and a range of methods for the analysis of individual examples. The following symbols have been used to signpost the type of tasks you and your students will perform:
N     Watch
O    Listen
s       Answer the question(s)
&  Read
~     Brainstorm
C   Reflect
å   Summarise
$  Research
I   Help
i     This is a point where you are provided with further information on a topic or you are guided to some reference resources


  • When did you last listen to music?
  • Where were you while listening to it?
  • Which is the song you like best? You hate most?
  • What sort of music you will never consent to listen to? Why?
  • What are the latest hits in Bulgaria? In the world?

As you realise, listening to music, especially to popular music, has become an indelible part of our everyday life. People are exposed to it practically everywhere: at and outside home; on TV, radio or live concerts; in shops, cafes, even public transport. Still, what exactly do we mean when we identify certain songs or instrumental pieces as an instance of ‘popular music’? And what’s ‘popular’ anyway?


~C ? 1.1 Consider the following terms. Put down in your notebooks as many words or expressions that, in your view, best explain their meaning.


& 1.2. The following excerpts introduce a number of interpretations of  ‘popular’ and ‘popular culture’ currently in circulation in the field of Culture Studies.
Do they differ from your own perception of the two terms? If yes, how?


  • Of people in general; for people in general; well liked by people in general.
  • ‘Popular’ is usually synonymous with ‘good’ in ordinary conversation, but this is an inversion of its earlier pejorative connotations. In its original form, popular was used to distinguish the mass of the people (not the ‘people in general’) from the titled, wealthy or educated classes. Not surprisingly, since most writers on the subject were either members or clients of the latter classes, its synonyms were gross, base, vile, riff-raff, common, low, vulgar, plebeian, cheap.

Source: (OED)

And, in one sense, popular culture always has its base in the experiences, the pleasures, the memories, and the traditions of the people. It has connections with the local hopes and local aspirations, local tragedies and local scenarios that are the everyday practices and everyday experiences of ordinary folks. Hence it links with what Mikhail Bakhtin calls ‘the vulgar’ – the popular, the informal, the underside, the grotesque. That is why it is always counterpoised to elite or high culture, and thus is a site of alternative traditions. And that is why the dominant traditions have always been deeply suspicious of it quite rightly.
The role of the ‘popular’ in popular culture is to fix the authenticity of popular forms, rooting them in the experiences of popular communities from which they draw their strength allowing us to see them as expressive of a particular subordinate social life that resists its being constantly made over as low and outside. However, as popular culture has historically become the dominant form of global culture, so it is at the same time the scene, par excellence, of commodification, of the industries where culture enters directly into the circuits of a dominant technology – the circuits of power and capital.
Source:  Hall (1995:469)
Pop’s multi-faceted nature begins with the word of which it is diminutive; popular, an adjective which has become a keyword in this century of mass production and mass culture. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives many definitions, all deriving from the Latin populus, the people: ‘adapted to the understating, taste or means of ordinary people (1573), ‘finding favor with the people, favourite, acceptable, pleasing’ (1608); ‘prevalent among, or accepted by, the people generally (1603)’. Its first attachment to a noun is recorded in 1885: ‘short for popular concert’.
Popular is an ambiguous term, however. Against its earlier uses are placed pejorative words like ‘plebian’, ‘epidemic’, while Bacon referred to a ‘Nobleman of an ancient family, but unquiet and popular’. This meaning is amplified by the account given by Raymond Williams in Keywords: ‘Popular culture was not identified by the people but by the others, and it still carries two older senses: inferior kinds of work (cf. popular literature, popular press as distinguished from quality press); and work deliberately setting out to win favor (popular journalism as opposed to democratic journalism, or popular entertainment); as well as the more modern sense of being liked by many people’.
Source: Kureishi & Savage (1995: xxv)

It is worth asking what we mean when we use the term ‘popular’. As Raymond Williams (1976) suggested, the term combines some contradictory ideas and meanings. In historical perspective, he noted that to call something ‘popular’ was a negative description until the nineteenth century, a bad thing. Positive connotations – the idea that ‘popular’ could be good – developed from that time onwards. In the modern media age, if something is popular, or part of popular culture, it is understood first of all, to be widespread, to be liked by or at least encountered by many people.  A prerequisite for this in the modern period has been the development of mass production and distribution systems, industries and technologies devoted to the mass meditation of culture. So, in addition to the idea of ‘liked by many’, the notion of popular culture also often carries this implication of mass-produced culture. Associated with this theme are ideas that popular culture is ‘machine-made’ for the ‘mass’ of people and not the elite, not based for example on certain craft traditions and as a result perhaps regarded as rather trashy, contrived, ephemeral and commercial.
In this context of values and tastes, discussions of popular culture inevitably also bring us into contact with another set of definitions, especially those, which have attempted to distinguish between ‘high’ and ‘low culture’. These often pose fundamental questions of cultural value and worth. The accepted definitions of cultural value or excellence have traditionally been associated with dominant or powerful groups and classes in society. Such definitions have often made distinctions between ‘high’ culture – the educated appreciation of works which are often classical in origin in terms of music, art, theatre, ballet, opera, and literature – and ‘low’ or popular culture. Whilst ‘high’ culture tends to be equated with educated discernment, taste and distance of an intellectually refined elite, seeking to universalize its values, ‘low’ culture is all that is not refined or approved in these terms. It is therefore perceived as ‘popular’, vulgar, common and easy. Modern media and popular culture in general have often been found wanting from this standpoint, although to confuse matters somewhat, modern media also played a significant role in ‘popularizing’ aspects of ‘high’ or elite culture, for instance Classic FM, Pavarotti, and so on.
There is a final twist in the debate over popular culture and it brings into play another inflection in the term ‘popular’. This emphasizes the idea that popular culture is ‘of the people’, a kind of modern equivalent of folk culture. The importance of this view lies in a stress on popular culture as the modern site, an arena, where all sorts of ideas, images, styles and values can be expressed, articulated and compete for allegiance: where resistance and challenge, especially from less powerful or oppressed groups, can be symbolically advanced, and where dominant or powerful can be subverted or countered. The extent, to which involvement in the consumption of forms of popular culture can be seen as predictably conformist in its outcome and impact, as opposed to unpredictable and resistant, has formed a key area for debate in recent studies of media audiences.
Source: O’ Sullivan  at al (1998:26-27)
The sense of popular culture I have in mind is indicated by Hebdige’s definition: ‘popular culture’ – e.g. a set of generally available artefacts; films, records, clothes, TV programmes, modes of transport, etc.’ Different societies, different groups within societies, and societies and groups in different historical periods can all have their own popular culture. It is therefore preferable not to hold a strict and exclusive definition.
Source: Strinati (1995:xvii)

å        1.3. Considering all the definitions you have just read can you complete in no more than 50 words each of the following statements:
POPULAR is ………
NB! Your summaries need not be coherent text. Notes will do.
So far we have dealt with two basic concepts – popular and popular culture in somewhat general terms. Now I would like to turn your attention to the main subject of this paper: popular music.


C ? 2.1. Design a short questionnaire aiming to identify popular perceptions of the term ‘popular music’.
I You might like to consider the following points while preparing your questionnaire.

  • Aims you would like to achieve
  • Respondents: possibly an equal number of male and female informants from different age groups; ideally with different social and educational background.
  • Questions: clarity of formulation; content / topic of questions; number (up to 5)
  • Questionnaire layout
  • Procedure
  • Time constraints

2.2.Conduct your small-scale survey.
NB! You need not ask more than 20 informants.
2.3.Analyse the outcomes of your survey. Questions to consider:

  • What aspects of popular music are touched upon in your informants’ response?
  • How can this be interpreted in terms of their age, gender, and social status?
  • Are there any examples of popular music given?
  • What conclusions can be drawn about your respondents’ perceptions of popular music?

@2.4.Write down the most important, in your view, results from this survey.


A clear judgement concerning the relation of serious music can be arrived at only by strict attention to the fundamental characteristic of popular music: standardization. The whole structure of popular music is standardized, even where attempts are made to circumvent standardization. Standardization extends from the most general features to the most specific ones. Best known is the rule that the chorus consists of thirty-two bars and that the range is limited to one octave and one note. The general types of hits are also standardized: not only the dance types, the rigidity of whose pattern is understood, but also the characters such as mother songs, home songs, nonsense or ‘novelty songs, pseudo-nursery rhymes, laments for a lost girl.  …. This guarantees that regardless of what aberrations occur, the hit will lead back to the same familiar experience, and nothing fundamentally novel will be introduced.
The details themselves are standardized no less than the form, and a whole technology exists for them such as break, blue chords, dirty notes. Their standardization, however, is somewhat different from that of the framework. It is not overt like the latter but hidden behind a veneer of individual ‘effects’ whose prescriptions are handled as the expert’s secret, however open this secret may be to musicians generally. This contrasting character of the standardization of the whole and part provides a rough, preliminary setting for the effect upon the listener.
The primary effect on this relation between the framework and the detail is that the listener becomes prone to evince stronger reactions to the part than to the whole. His grasp of the whole does not lie in the living experience of this one piece of music he has followed.…Details which occupy strategic positions in the framework – the beginning of the chorus or its reentrance after the bridge – have a better chance for recognition that details not so situated, for instance, middle bars of the bridge.
Serious music, for comparative purposes, may be thus characterized: every detail derives its musical sense from the concrete totality of the piece which, in turn, consists of the life relationship of the details and never mere enforcement of a musical scheme.
s3.1.1. Think of a popular song or an instrumental piece currently played on a radio station of your preference.

  • Which part of the song comes to your mind first?
  • Why do you think you remembered this particular part?
  • How does that relate to Adorno’s theory?

C ? 3.1.2. Adorno’s work on popular music was written in 1941. Do you think his concept of standardization of structure and detail is still relevant today and can be applied to modern popular music?  Why? /Why not?
&     3.1.3 In his analysis of popular music Adorno goes on to draw further distinctions between popular and serious music.
In serious music, each musical element, even the simplest one, is ‘itself’, and the more highly organized the work is, the less possibility there is of substitution among the details. In hit music, however, the structure underlying the piece is abstract, existing independent of the specific course of the music. This is basic to the illusion that certain complex harmonies are more easily understandable in popular music than the same harmonies in serious music. For the complicated in popular music never functions as ‘itself’ but only as a disguise or embellishment behind which the scheme can always be perceived.…The listener, when faced with the complicated, actually hears only the simple which it represents and perceives the complicated only as parodistic distortion of the simple. No such mechanical substitution is possible in serious music.

So far standardization of popular music has been considered in structural terms – that is, as an inherent quality without explicit reference to the process of production or to the underlying causes for standardization. Though all industrial mass production necessarily eventuates in standardization, the production of popular music can be called ‘industrial’ only in its promotion and distribution, whereas the act of producing a song-hit still remains in the handicraft stage. The production of popular music is highly centralized in its economic organization, but still ‘individualistic’ in its social mode of production. The division of labor among the composer, harmoniser, and arranger is not industrial but rather pretends industrialization in order to look more up to date, whereas it has actually adapted industrial methods for the technique of its promotion. It would not increase the costs of production if the various composers of hit tunes did not follow certain standard patterns. Therefore, we must look for other reasons for structural standardization – very different from those which account for the standardization of motor cars and breakfast foods.
Imitation offers a lead for coming to grips with the basic reasons for it. The musical standards of popular music were originally developed by a competitive process. As one particular song scored a great success, hundreds of others sprang up imitating the successful ones. The most successful hits, types, and ‘ratios’ between elements were imitated, and the process culminated in the crystallization of standards. Under centralized conditions such as exist today these standards have become ‘frozen’… This ‘freezing’ of standards is socially enforced upon the agencies themselves.
3.1.4 $ ON? As you can see, imitation of hits that proved successful is yet another characteristic feature of popular music production Adorno deals with in great detail. Undoubtedly, we all can list a few examples of songs that support his findings.
s  Can you identify any particular genres of modern (Bulgarian) popular music where standards in Adorno’s terms have been followed in the production of the hits?
sCould we argue that the producers have strongly relied on imitation as discussed by Adorno?
sWhat exactly has been imitated in the songs you have considered?
In addition to his argument that popular music is to a great degree standardized and mechanical in the sense that certain details can be shifted from one song to another without really affecting the whole, Adorno also claims that popular music industry attempts to conceal standardization through what he calls ‘pseudo-individualization’.
By pseudo-individualization we mean endowing cultural mass production with the halo of free choice or open market on the basis of standardization itself. Standardization of song hits keeps the customers in line by doing their listening for them, as it were. Pseudo-individualization, for its part, keeps them in line by making them forget that what they listen to is already listened to for them, or ‘pre-digested’…. The most drastic example of standardization of presumably individualized features is to be found in the so-called improvisations. Even though jazz musicians still improvise in practice, their improvisations have become so ‘normalized’ as to enable a whole terminology to be developed to express the standard devices of individualization.
Source: Storey (1994:197 – 210)
Another claim found in Adorno’s work is that popular music promotes passive listening. He relates the consumption of popular music to work under capitalism which, on the one hand, is dull and repetitive and therefore urging people to seek escape and imagine what the world could be, but, on the other hand, is dulling and leaves little energy for real escape. Thus people seek and find satisfaction in popular forms equally repetitive and boring to their work.

3.1.5. å  I do not in any way aim to criticize or evaluate Adorno’s assumptions here. Rather, I want to draw your attention to one of the seminal works on popular music that appeared in the 20th century. Before we proceed with other views, I would like you consider what you have become acquainted with so far and answer the following questions.
s      What are some of the characteristic features of popular music according to Adorno and the representatives of the Frankfurt School?
s      Have the readings we have offered so far risen any questions regarding popular music you would like to seek answers to? If yes, can you formulate these questions?
s      What is your personal comment on Adorno’s assumptions about popular music?
From the point of view of postmodern theory, the recent history of popular music can be seen to be marked by a trend towards the overt and explicit mixing of styles and genres of music in very direct and self-conscious ways. This has ranged from the straightforward re-mixing of already recorded songs from the same or different eras on the same record, to the quoting and ‘tasting’ of distant musics, sounds and instruments in order to create new sub- and pan-cultural identities. Jive Bunny and the Master Mixers, with their eclectic succession of pop and rock’n’roll records, are the best example of the former, while mixing and collage-like constructions of reggae sound systems, rap, house and hip hop are amongst the best examples of the latter. It is also necessary to include in this category the so-called ‘art rock’ musical innovations and mixing of styles associated with groups like Talking Heads, and performers like Laurie Anderson, together with the self-conscious ‘reinvention of disco’ by Pet Shop Boys.
Whatever the respective musical and political merits of these new departures, or the scale of their influence, they can be argued to be postmodern. They are concerned with collage, pastiche and quotation, with the mixing of styles which remain musically and historically distinct, with the random and selective pasting together of different musics and styles, with the rejection of divisions between serious and fun or pop music and with the attack on the notion of rock as a serious artistic music which merits the high cultural accolade of the respectful concert (a trend identified with punk). By contrast, ‘modernist’ popular music can be understood as an attempt to fashion new and distinct forms out of previous styles. So what was distinctive about rock’n’roll, for instance, was not the fact that it, too, borrowed from and based itself upon already existing musical styles, but that it used these styles to construct something new. Rock’n’roll, as is commonly suggested, arose out of the cross-cutting influences exerted by country and western, on the one hand, and urban rhythm’n’blues, on the other. The result was not, it is argued, a postmodern amalgam in which country and rhythm’n’blues stayed recognizably the same, but a novel and original fusion called rock’n’roll. …. Put very simply and crudely the argument about the transition between modernism and postmodernism in pop music can be seen to be associated with the movement from rock’n’roll in the late 1950s, and the Beatles and Tamla Motown in the 1960s, to Jive Bunny, Music Mixing and ‘art rock’ and ‘straight’ pop in the 1980s.
Source: Strinati (1995: 233-235)
? å  3.2.1. Consider the following questions.
s  What are the characteristic features of popular music from the standpoint of postmodern theory?
s What is the main difference between modernist and postmodernist views on popular music?
3.2.2. Can you provide any examples of recent hits that support the postmodernist understanding of popular music? Can you justify your choice?
Admittedly, what Strinati offers in the excerpt above is an attempt to bring together a number of arguments considering the nature of popular music as formulated by different representatives of the postmodern theory. Inevitably, some of the counter-arguments claiming that such an approach to contemporary popular music is one-sided and superficial have been left out. If you are interested in these issues and would like to get a broader view on postmodern theories, I have included a number of works you could turn to in the “Further Reading’ section at the end of this unit.


&   4.1 Read the following texts focusing on various aspects of music production and promotion.
1. The worldwide success of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ provided the key. Elvis Presley arrived in the UK, on record and in photographs, like an alien. The British industry immediately looked for home-grown rockers, but were hampered by pop’s Afro-American origins: what in the US was the result of a long musical process – the marriage of Country and R&B – was seen as a fad in a country where the popular traditions were music hall and balladeering. Like tail-fin on a Buick, Elvis’s gimmick was his hoodlum, androgynous sexuality; that’s what entrepreneurs like Parnes sought to develop and promote, starting with Tommy Hicks. Parnes immediately identified his problem. His raw material was working class youth, who had decidedly non-technicolour names. There got to be some glamour and charisma. So Tommy Hicks became Tommy Steele, Reginald Smith became Johnny Gentle, Clive Powel became Georgie Fame. … Parnes was the first to make up names that evoked emotional and sexual states that you couldn’t find in a phone book. Here they all are once again , and some more: Steele, Wilde, Fury, Eager, Gentle, Power, Fame , Pride. Feasting with panthers, Parnes defined the plasticity of the first teenage British stars – that overt yet passive sexuality – and made it clear that pop was about one thing: self-recreation. You could be an inner-urban child with a boring circumstance, yet by one simple act – changing your name – you could be transformed forever into a deity.
Homosexuality was always hinted at this new relationship between manager and artist, and the shade of Oscar Wilde hovered in this new dandyism. … Most of the managers were men and most of them liked boys. A few of the managers were women and one or two of them liked girls.’ In this exchange, gay desire = teenage female desire, an equation which has continued through the Beatles to today’s Smash Hits pop groups.
The collective power of young women was another central factor: the very first teenage products – cosmetics, magazines (like the US Seventeen), singers like Sinatra – exclusively marketed at young women, and it was their extreme enthusiasm which, from 1943 on, was the most obvious manifestation of youth power. And to this day, pop still requires the willing feminization of young men.
Source: Kureishi & Savage (1995:xxiii – xxiv)
2.         … The basic Golden Rules as far as they apply to writing a debut single that can go to Number One in the UK Charts are as follows:
Do not attempt the impossible by trying to work the whole thing out before you go into the studio. Working in a studio has to be a fluid and creative venture but at all times remember at the end of it you are going to have to have a 7’’ version that fulfils all the criteria perfectly. Do not try and sit down and write a complete song. Songs that have been written in such a way and reached Number One can only be done by the true song writing genius and be delivered by artists with such forceful convincing passion that the world HAS to listen.  You know, the sort of thing, ‘Sailing’ by Rod Stewart, ‘Without You’ by Nilsson.
What the Golden Rules can provide you with is a framework that you can slot the component parts into.
Firstly, it has to have a dance groove that will run all the way through the record and that the current 7’’ buying generation will find irresistible. Secondly, it must be no longer than three minutes and thirty seconds (just under 3.20 is preferable). If they are any longer Radio One daytime DJs will start fading early or talking over the end, when the chorus is finally being hammered home – the most important part of any record. Thirdly, it must consist of an intro, a verse, a chorus, second verse, a second chorus, a breakdown section, back into a double length chorus and outro. Fourthly, lyrics. You’ll need some, but not many.

Causality Plus a Pinch of Mysticism

… Be reassured by us, all music can only be the sum or part total of what has gone before. Every Number One song ever written is only made up from bits from other songs. There is no lost chord. No chances untried. No extra notes to the scale or hidden beats to the bar. There is no point in searching for originality.

So why don’t all songs sound the same? Why are some artists great, write dozens of classics that move you to tears, say it like it’s never been said before, make you laugh, dance, blow your mind, fall in love, take to the streets and riot? Well, it’s because although the chords, notes, harmonies, beats and words have all been used before their own soul shines through; their personality demands attention. This doesn’t just come via the great vocalist or virtuoso instrumentalist. The Techno sound of Detroit, the most totally linear programmed music ever, lacking any human musicianship in its execution reeks of sweat, sex and desire. The creators of that music just press a few buttons and out comes – a million years of lust.
What we are basically saying is, if you have anything in you, anything unique, what others might term as originality, it will come through whatever the component parts used in your future Number One are made up from.
Creators of music who desperately search for originality usually end up with music that has none because no room for their spirit has been left to get through.

Don’t worry about being accused of being a thief. Even if you were to, you have not got the time to take the trial and error route.
The simplest thing to do would be to flick through your copy of Guinness Book of Hits, find a smash hit from a previous era and do a cover of it, dressing it up in the clothes of today. Every year there is at least a couple of artists who get their debut Number One this way. From the ‘80s we have already had:
Soft Cell                                              ‘Tainted Love’
Paul Young                                          ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’
Captain Sensible                                  ‘Happy Talk’
Neil                                                      ‘Hole In My Shoe’
Tiffany                                                            ‘I Think We Are Alone Now’
Wet Wet Wet                                       ‘With a Little Help’
Yazz                                                    ‘The Only Way Is Up’
There are, however, the negative facts in taking this route. Using an already proven song can give you a false sense of security when you are in the studio recording. You can end up under the illusion that the song is such a classic that whatever you do, the song itself will be able to carry it through. You tend to lose your objectivity in the production of your version. The all important radio producers hate nothing more than a classic song covered badly.
The classic oldie, while fulfilling all the Golden Rules in pop, might have a lyrical content that may only relate to one period in pop history. There have been numerous Number One’s where this has been the case:
Scott McKenzie                                               ‘San Francisco’
The Beach Boys                                  ‘Good Vibrations’
The Beatles                                          ‘All You Need Is Love’
Mott the Hoople                                   ‘All The Young Dudes’
MARRS                                               ‘Pump Up the Volume’
Unless there is a revival of the zeitgeist of times past where the lyric in some way makes sense again, these songs should be stayed clear of.
Sometimes, almost the opposite can happen. By covering a cleverly picked old song it can be re-recorded in such a way that it is now more relevant to today’s record buyers, both lyrically and musically, than the original was to the past generations of hit-makers. Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ and Yazz’s ‘The Only Way Is Up’ are both perfect examples of this in 1988. … The other negative of doing a cover version is you lose all the writing credit. That means you will earn no publishing money on the record, however many it sells. We will explain later the mysteries of publishing, but for now just take it from us that having a Number One with a cover, as opposed to your own song, is the equivalent of throwing away a minimum of £10 000.
There is no denying that picking the right smash from the past and recording it well will result in a sure fire success. The procedures of the daytime shows at Radio One will have to only hear the opening bars of your record to know that there will be a few slots in their show for it; ‘the housewives at home and the husbands on the building site’ will be singing along with immediately. It’s not going to take them three of four listens before they decide whether they like the song. That decision was made long before you ever thought of having a Number One. As for the current 7’’ single buying generation who might have never heard the song before, they will automatically be given the chance to hear the record three or four times on the radio.
If there is not a cover that takes your fancy the trick is to construct your song out of disguised, modified and enhanced parts of previous smashes, so that those Radio One producers, TV youth programme researchers and multiple-chain-record-store stock buyers will subliminally warm to your track and feel at ease with it.
The Timelords, The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) (1988)
Source: Kureishi & Savage (1995:673-677)
3. Many bands reacted to business problems by setting up their own labels and in the beginning it was thought that this would lead to less dependence on the businessmen.
Bands would have complete control over material, packaging, marketing and promotion. Of course these inflated ideals have collapsed but even the more modest ambitions – such as the freedom not to be pushed around too much – have proved too difficult to achieve. In practice most musicians get rather confused and bored if they are asked to do a lot of auditing of accounts and they settle for a larger royalty cheque and that’s about it.

Even the Grateful Dead, the most recent band to launch their own label, have scrapped their original plans. These included distributing through head shops, a fleet of ‘Good Humor’ trucks to take the records to outflying areas not well-served by retail chains, and whole series of head spin-offs. But surprise, surprise, we find that in Europe at least, ‘In the Wake Of the Flood’ is being distributed in a completely conventional manner by Atlantic. … Meanwhile, the hardware gets more and more complicated. From Hi-Fi to Stereo to Quadrophonic. Cylinder, disc, cassette, eight-track. More and more live albums are being made, because the equipment to do them justice is at last on the market and more and more people listening to them – in their living rooms. Venues get bigger, roadies multiply, PA systems need articulated lorries to haul them about, ticket prices soar. …The oil storage is affecting not only juggernauts but also the record industry. Vinyl, from which records are made, is a by-product of oil, and the position in the States at the moment is so critical that record company executives admit quite openly that they are having to pass inferior product at the pressing plants simply because the quality of raw materials is deteriorating every week.
Difficulties with raw materials do not only affect the distribution end of the business. United Artists admitted last week that from now on they would only be producing the records they knew they could sell. Not only would the print order be limited but the company would be very reluctant to sign up new artists unless they were guaranteed sellers. So we can expect a fine crop of Great Soundtracks and Ray Conniff anthologies. The smaller independent labels, who normally employ the pressing facilities owned by the giant conglomerates, will be turned away from the plants, just as the small petrol operators are being given the cold shoulder at this minute by the big Oil companies. Budget labels will suffer and we will all sink into a morass of middle of the road, mid-Atlantic schmaltz. Music for western civilization to collapse by.
Despite these problems, however, the Industry is expanding in the time honoured capitalist tradition. In the boardrooms brandy-veined cheeks quiver with excitement at the thought of the Japanese market.  (It has expanded 10 times in the last two years.) At last we’ll pay the little buggers back for those Sonys. Beyond stretches the Third World – Music will win it all back.
‘Plastique Phantastiquie Romper Rock’, Time Out 152, by Music Star (1973).
Source: Broughton (1998:48)
? å 4.1.2. List the main issues discussed in each of the three articles?
Text 1.
Text 2.
Text 3.
4.1.3. What are some of the basic ‘Golden Rules’ to be taken into consideration in terms of popular music production, distribution and consumption? List any of them you find particularly relevant within Bulgarian context.
4.2. C? You are an affluent producer willing to support the debut of a young Bulgarian artist (a singer, a musician, a group). Design a strategy that will ensure the success of the artist’s debut single (album), on the one hand, and secure your investment, on the other.
I Questions to consider:

  • What genre are you going to choose? Why?
  • Who are you more likely to support – a female or male artist (group)? What factors would affect your choice?
  • How are you going to proceed with the single itself?
  • How are you planning to launch your ‘star’?

? Outline briefly your strategy.
4.3. C? You are a young Bulgarian artist (a singer, a musician, a group) with little experience in music business and you want to ‘conquer’ Bulgarian music market with your music. Though you are ambitious enough and don’t give up easily, you lack the necessary finances to do it on your own. Design your strategy that will ensure an overnight success to your debut single (album).
I Questions to consider:

  • What is the music genre you’re currently working in and you’d like to be recognized by?
  • Are you ready to make compromises for the sake of success? If yes, how far would you go?
  • Who are you likely to approach for (financial) support?
  • How are you going to proceed with the single (album) itself?

? Outline briefly your strategy.
4.4. C? Consider the two strategies you have designed. How can you account for any differences between the two approaches employed to achieve the same goal: success in the music industry?
s4.5. Has this activity raised any other questions in terms of popular music production, distribution and consumption you would like to seek answers to? If yes, what are they?


In an article published back in 1958, Colin MacInnes argues that even a brief scan of the Top Twenty best-seller list in Melody Maker can tell a lot about the singers and their audiences. Taking into consideration one particular chart, he arrives at the conclusions that
‘the modern troubadours are teenagers, and the reason’s not far to seek: the buyers are teenagers, too; the youth is rich and willing to spend money on records; there’s a decline of the female singer (only two of the hits featured in the chart were performed by women); there’s a teenage aversion or indifference to ‘colored’ pop-singers (only one of the featured songs was performed by a ‘colored’ artist, Harry Belafonte)’.
A detailed look at a song, identified by the author as a typical best-seller, Paul Anka’s ‘Diana’, provides us with some insights with regard to the tastes, drams and desires of both singers and their fans, namely  ‘teenage triumph and teenage yearning’(Kureishi & Savage 1995:85-90).
$ 5.1. Consider the most recent Top 20 chart (Bulgarian or international alike). What can you conclude about the identities of the performers and their target audiences?
s  Judging from the song titles and/or song lyrics, what conclusions can you draw in terms of values, beliefs, cultural practices characteristic of this generation of performers and fans?
I If access to charts in the printed media proves impossible, you may consider any Radio or TV chart (e.g. Bulgarian Top 100 Albums, bTV; Bulgarian Top 20, BG Radio, etc).
&     5.2. Read the excerpts from an article, which originally appeared in a Time Out issue in 1978. It is an attempt to provide a comprehensive analysis of disco not only as a music genre but also as a (sub)cultural phenomenon.

The Infinite Spaces of Disco

In public I’m into punk like everybody else (saviour of rock’n’roll’s soul and all that) but privately I’m a junk rock junkie and the junkiest music of all is disco. Everybody hates it. Hippies hate it, progressives hate it, punks hate it, NME (New Musical Express) hates it, even Derek Jewell hates it. Disco is music for the disillusioned. It isn’t art: no auteurs in disco, just calculated desiccating machines. It isn’t folk: no disco subcultures, no kids seething with symbolic expression. It isn’t even much fun: no jokes, no irony, only hard rhythmed purposefulness. Disco is the sound of consumption. It exists only in its dancing function: when the music stops all that’s left is a pool of sweat on the floor. And disco’s power is the power of consumption. The critics are right: disco is dehumanising – all those twitching limbs, glazed-eyed , mindless. The disco aesthetic excludes feeling; it offers a glimpse of a harsh sci-fi future.

Popular music has always been dance music; disco is nothing but dance music. It has no rock’n’roll connotations; off the dance floor it is utterly meaningless, lyrically, musically and aesthetically. Every disco sound is subordinate to its physical function; disco progress is technological progress. The end doesn’t change but the means to that end, the ultimate beat, are refined and improved – hence drum machines, synthesizers, 12’’pressings. And disco is dance music in the abstract, content determined by form. Popular dance music of the past, in the 1930s say, was a form determined by its content. The content was developed by dance hall instructors and sheet music salesmen and band leaders whose rules of partnership, decorum, uplift and grace, can still be followed in ‘Come Dancing’: the music is strictly subordinate to the conventions of flounce and simper. In contrast, when Boney M, German manufactured black American androgynes, sing for our dancing pleasure ,‘Belfast’, it means nothing at all. Any two syllables arranged and sounding just so would do and how we dance to them is, of course entirely our own affair. There are no rules in disco, it’s just that individual expression means nothing when there’s nothing individual to express. I trace disco back to the twist, the first dance gimmick to be taken seriously and the first dance step to be without any redeeming social feature. I blame disco on Motown, the first company to realize that if the beat is right, soul power can be expressed without either the passion or emotion that made it soul power in the first place.
Disco is nothing like muzak. Muzak’s effect is subliminal; its purpose is to encourage its hearers to do anything but listen to it. Disco’s effect is material; its purpose is to encourage its hearers to do nothing but listen to it. Not even think.
Disco music is disco music only in discos. These days there are CP discos, anti-fascist discos, students’ discos, youth club discos, cricketers’ discos, punk discos and reggae discos. The disco form can be used by anyone who’s got a record player, records and a large enough room. But a proper disco exists only to be a disco and the records it plays exist only to be played by it. The Musicians’ Union hates discos because they put live musicians out of work. I hate discos because they seem like such a soft way of making money: a DJ doesn’t do anything except buying records and put the needle on them – I can do that too. The whole enterprise is parasitic: if there is such a thing as disco creativity it happened in secret studio places before. The best discos are the best just to the extend to which nothing unexpected happens – feet never falter, taste is never threatened, offence is never taken because never given. If you want a surprise don’t go to the disco.

The main British disco development occurred in the late ’60 / early 70s as live rock became increasingly undanceable, expensive and in the wrong places (colleges and concert halls). British disco went teenage pop and, in a commercial sense, it mostly still is. The style of consumption involved is working class provincial. Bouncers, louts, uneasy sexual posturing; dance hall culture really, but cooler and smarter than in the ‘50s, and with flashing lights and much better music. Women do most of the dancing, men most of the drinking, and none of them take disco as seriously as, perhaps, they ought.        Because meanwhile in America discos are the setting for adult chic consumption, part of the culture of singles rather than of teenage courtship, anonymously safe places for elaborate display of apathy. Can’t imagine drunks in Manhattan’s spruce discos, bumping buttocks with Susan Sontag and Lennie Burnstein.
The European connection is that discos in Paris are more like they are in New York than they are like they are in Nottingham. And French and Italian teenagers are, anyway, chic-er than Britons of any age. But the most wonderful Euro-discos of all are the ones in the holiday belts – Costa Brava, Riviera, Costa del Sol. Cellars which are open permanently in the summer months and in which earnest Northerners – Dutch, British, Swedes, Germans, develop their own singles culture, their own disco style. I can only explain it by noting that they dance to Donna Summer in their sandals. Ah disco! Ah Baccara!
As a rock writer, I’ve always been a frustrated DJ rather than a musician. ‘Hey you’, I’ve wanted to shout, ‘Listen to this!’ The model was John Peel, music lover and eclectic.  I certainly didn’t fancy the provincial DJs I knew – big, hearty philistines who knew nothing about the records they played but enjoyed the patter and had dreams, like Albert Finney in ‘Gumshoe’, of moving from master of ceremonies to master of comic routine. But this was a doomed approach anyway, survival from dance hall days. Real disco DJs aren’t entertainers at all, have nothing to do with music. They’re technologists, men (very few women) of the future: their job is to play the audience. It’s a job I want again. By 1984 it’ll be probably called ‘consumption-coordinator’.
Discos are where people dance and dancing can be anything from the shuffle to a pre-rehearsed and elaborate routine to a straight display of cartwheels. What disco dancing isn’t is: a) musical interpretation and b) self-expression. The opposite of disco dancing is what Legs and co. do on ‘Top of the Pops’ – i.e. choreographed responses to the ‘meaning’ of the song. What they do is so embarrassing that I usually turn the picture off, but I turn it back again for the rest of the show because, at an admittedly low level, it does reveal the difference between the Anglo-Collective disco style – all those dumpy little boys and girls looking nervously at each other – and the American-Individual style (on the clips from ‘Soul Train’) – all those intense boys and girls determinedly at their own feet. Most disco dancing has little to do with elegance, grace or agility, which is OK by me because if it did I wouldn’t do it.
Rock music, dance music, has always been a form of sexual expression – girl meets boy physically. The social problem has been the control of this expression – hence the moral about rock’n’roll, Elvis’s hips etc. Disco’s greatest achievement has been to develop a form in which sexuality is expressed and controlled simultaneously. Critics have missed the point of the standard formula – machinery plus orgasmic sighs. The problem is not that the sighs are fake, but that it wouldn’t make any difference if they were real! Disco isn’t a frustrating music – preventing the climax from occurring – but a music of control- preventing the climax from being disruptive. It’s a noisy form of some Eastern mystical discipline and the only puzzle to me is why disco is so important an aspect of gay culture. I’m not gay, so I can’t say, except that it seems as if disco stylization allows gays public displays that are sexual without apparently being offensive to the usual custodians of public morality.
The only thing to say about disco music as music is that it has given extraordinary opportunities to pop’s previously second class citizens – its session singers, engineers, Bee Gees. The technicians, in other words, who always could produce any sound to order but used not to know what to do with them. They know now.
Previous popular music has only reflected the world, in various ways; the point of disco, however is to replace it.
‘The Infinite Spaces of Disco’, Time Out 416 (1978), by Simon Frith
Source: Broughton (1998:102-103)

? å 5.2.1. Simon Frith’s article can roughly be divided into several sections each addressing a different aspect of disco culture. Consider the following headings and summarize the main points the author makes in his study.

  • Origins of disco
  • Disco vs. other contemporary music genres
  • The ideology of disco
  • Disco production
  • Disco consumption
  • Disco cultural practices
  • Disco identities

NB! The headings above do not necessarily follow the structure and the logical organization of the text.
5.2.2. Do you identify other important, in your view, issues concerning disco culture, which have been omitted in the list above? If yes, what are they?
$ 5.3. As you can see, popular music genres provide numerous opportunities to get insights about particular (sub)cultures they are part of, as well as about mechanisms employed to shape members’ identities and determine any of the practices they seem to share. The previous task (5.2) has outlined one possible framework which, with minor modifications, could be applied to analyze any contemporary popular music genre and the respective (sub)culture.
Consider a contemporary music genre or culture you are most likely to identify with, e.g. techno, heavy metal, rap, pop, pop-folk, etc. Modify (if necessary) the framework suggested in task 5.2 and carry out a small-scale research in order to determine its current status within Bulgarian society. Think of the possible interpretation of your results.
I   To make your task more manageable you may choose to touch upon only one aspect of the culture of your choice, e.g. members’ identity, shared practices, and analyze it into a greater detail. Try to avoid any overgeneralizations when you interpret your results. You may decide to employ different research methods while you conduct your survey:

  • Critical reading (seek for information in relevant music press: books, encyclopedia, magazines, fanzines, etc.)
  • Design questionnaires
  • Formal/informal interviews with members of the culture
  • Participant observation and field work (participation in a particular event, visits to a club or other venues)
  • Combination of the above

5.3.1. Give account of your research and suggest your interpretation of the results.

CONCLUding task

Instead of a formal conclusion, we would like you to reflect a little more on the issues dealt with in this unit and possible questions raised in the process of your work.
s         Is there anything regarding aspects of popular music that left unanswered?
s       Is there anything in this unit that you would like to study in more detail?
s       Which of the activities suggested here seem most applicable to your teaching context? Why?


Choose an aspect of popular music (as discussed so far) and consider ways of introducing it to your own students. Design a lesson plan or an activity aimed at the group of students you’re currently teaching. Teach the lesson and reflect on its outcomes. What did you learn about your students that you didn’t know before?


Activity 1.
Frow, J. (1995) Cultural Studies and Cultural Value, Oxford: Claredon Press, pp.60 – 88
O’Sullivan, T. et al. (1994) Key Concepts in Communications and Cultural Studies, Second Edition, London & New York: Routledge
Strinati, D. (1995) An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, London & New York: Routledge.
Activity 2.
Deacon, D., Pickering, M., Golding, P., Murdock, G. (1999) Researching Communications. A Practical Guide to Methods in Media and Cultural Analysis, London, Sydney, Auckland: Arnold
Activity 3.
Adorno, T. (1994) ‘On Popular Music’, in Storey (1994), pp.197 – 210
Gelder, K. and Thornton S. (ed.) (1997) The Subcultures Reader, London & New York: Routledge
Goodwin, A. (1994) ‘Popular Music and Postmodern Theory’, in Storey (1994), pp.403 – 417
Lipsitz, G. (1997) ‘Cruising Around the Historical Bloc: Postmodernism and Popular Music in East Los Angeles’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.350 – 360
Storey, J. (1994) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. A Reader, Second edition, London, New York, Toronto: Prentice Hall
Activity 4.
Broughton, F. (ed.)(1998) Time Out. Interviews 1968 – 1998, London: Penguin Group
Kureishi, H. and Savage, J. (ed.)(1995) The Faber Book of Pop, London, and Boston: Faber and Faber
Activity 5.
Becker, H. (1997) ‘The Culture of a Deviant Group: the ‘Jazz’ Musician’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.55 – 65
Carter, A. (1995) ‘Notes for a Theory of Sixties style’, in Kureishi & Savage (1995), pp.316 – 320
Cohen, A. (1997) ‘A general Theory of Subcultures’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.44 – 54
During, S. (1993) The Cultural Studies Reader, London & New York: Routledge
Dyer, R. (1995) ‘In Defense of Disco’, in Kureishi & Savage (1995), pp. 518- 523
Fonarow, W. (1997) ‘The Spatial Organisaton of the Indie Music Gig’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.360 – 372
Frith, S. (1997) ‘Formalism, Realism and Leisure: The Case of Punk’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.163 – 174
Garrat, S. (1995) ‘Teenage Dreams’ in Kureishi & Savage (1995), pp.423 – 425
Gosling, R. (1995) ‘Music That Spells Cash and Freedom’, in Kureishi & Savage (1995), pp.127 –133
Grossberg, L. (1997) ‘Another Boring Day in Paradise: Rock’n’Roll and the Empowerment of Everyday Life’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.477 – 493
Laing, D. (1997) ‘Listening to Punk’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.406 – 420
MacInnes, C. (1995) ‘Pop Songs and Teenagers’, in Kureishi & Savage (1995), pp.88 – 90
Rimmer, D. (1995) ‘The Birth of the New Pop’, in Kureishi & Savage (1995) pp.539 – 542
Straw, W. (1993) ‘Characterising Rock Music Culture: The Case of Heavy Metal’, in During (1993), pp.368 – 399
Straw, W (1997) ‘Communities and Scenes in Popular Music’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.494 – 505
Walser, R. (1997) ‘Eruptions: Heavy Metal Appropriations of Classical Virtuosity’, in Gelder and Thornton (ed.)(1997), pp.459 – 470
Some useful websites:
Search engines:


Broughton, F. (ed.)(1998) Time Out. Interviews 1968 – 1998, London: Penguin Group, pp.48, 102 – 103
Hall, S. (1996) Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, London & New York; Routledge, p.469.
Kureishi, H.and Savage, J. (ed.)(1995) The Faber Book of Pop, London, and Boston: Faber and Faber, pp. xxv –xxvii, 81 – 91, 673 – 677
O’Sullivan, T. et al. (1994) Key Concepts in Communications and Cultural Studies, Second Edition, London & New York: Routledge
O’Sullivan, T., Dutton, B., Rayner, P. (1998) Studying the Media. An Introduction, Second edition, London, Sydney, Auckland: Arnold, pp.26 -27
Storey, J. (1994) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. A Reader, Second edition, London, New York, Toronto: Prentice Hall, pp.197 – 210
Storey, J. (1996) Cultural Studies and The Study of Popular Culture. Theories and Methods, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp.93 – 109
Strinati, D. (1995) An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, London & New York: Routledge.

The Media – What Can We Do to Them?

Written by: Nikolina Tsvetkova [toc class=”toc-right”] Some ideas for using media texts in the EFL classroom to develop skills for intercultural communication

Handout 1: Personally speaking

Task: Work in pairs. Ask your partner about as many different types of media s/he uses. Put them in Column A of the table below. In Column B put his/ her reasons for using them. Use the following rubrics:
(a) to get informed about recent events
(b) to broaden his/ her knowledge of a subject
(c) to get entertained
Having done this, range the Media from Column A according to how often s/ he uses them by giving them a number (1, 2, 3…) in Column C.
Report to the group what you have found out about your partner’s “media tastes”.

A. examples of media B. reasons for using them C. how often s/he uses them
eg radio

Handout 2: Analysing Newspapers

1. technical codes 2. written codes 3. symbolic codes The front page as a whole
  • layout of the page
  • use of typefaces and fonts
  • size and quality of the photographs
  • relation between photographs and texts
  • reason for selecting particular photographs
  • size of the headlines
  • key words and their meaning
  • conventions used
  • influence of the headline on the reader’s attitude to the story
  • omission of information from the copy?
  • caption(s) and meaning
  • meaning of the masthead and title of the newspaper
  • way to achieve this
  • use of particular graphics and their meaning
  • use of colours and their meaning
  • use of symbolic codes in the pictures
  • the overall layout as ameans of attracting readers
  • link between the overall look of the page and particular messagse
  • means of creating the latter

(After O’Sullivan et al 1994:87 – 88)

Handout 3

Woodhead laments boy’s writing score Boys are write-off target in spelling

Some ideas for using media texts in the EFL classroom to develop skills for intercultural communication

  1. The Media – a personal view (warm-up)

Ps work in pairs. They receive Handout 1. Ps ask each other about what type of media they use, their reasons for using them and how often they use them; then they fill in the table with their partners’ answers.
Tutor elicits answers from several pairs. (It is not necessary for all pairs to report about their findings). A short discussion on the importance of the Medi ain contemporary life is initiated. Ps are told that they are going to concentrate on the print media during the session.

  • to lead into the topic
  • to show draw Ps’ attention to the existing variety of media, and their being an integral part of people’s lives
  1. Audiences.

Drawing on Ps’ findings in the warm-up activity the tutor brainstorms them on the question why there is such a variety of newspapers trying to elicit from them the fact that there are different newspaper audiences.
Ps work in small groups of 4 on the question ‘What are the criteria for defining newspaper audiences. Groups report. Tutor sums up (if necessary guiding the discussion along these lines) that such criteria might be Gender, age, social class, educational background, political background. (see Edgington, B. and Montgomery, M. The Media, the British Council, 1996)

  1. Tabloids vs Broadsheets

Tutor puts on the board the words British press and asks the Ps what they associate with themleading them to the distinction between tabloids and broadsheets. Then s/ he distributes Handout 2 asking the Ps to fill in the numbered spaces in the table with the words given. T invites ps to compare answers with a partner, then checks that they have completed the task showing an OHT with the filed-in table.

  1. T asks Ps if they believe what they see in the newspapers and to what extent / why. T invites Ps to discuss what features of newspaper layout are most likely to influence readers. T distributes Handout 3 for Ps to check their ideas
  2. T tells Ps that they are going to work on two newspaper articles about Students’ ignorance in Britain. Asks them what differences they expect to find in the articles knowing they comment on one and the same thing and have been taken from a tabloid and a broadsheet.

T. divides the Ps in groups of 4. T distributes Handout 4 and a slip of the question fo the group. Ps put their findings in the column corresponding to the headline of the articles they have. They are asked to predict the source.
T puts them in new groups so that there are people who have worked on either of the articles. They read the other article, exchange information and end up with a table of comparison filled in for both of them. The groups report.
Ps are invited to compare their findings with their predictions.

  1. A Cross-cultural comparison.

Ps are given a copy of a Bulgarian article and are asked to consider the same questions about it, trying to say what features are prevailing – the tabloid or the broadsheet ones.
The discussion could then follow a number of directions such as whether such a distinction between tabloids and broadsheets exist in our culture, an attempt to outline some characteristic features of theMonitor, other possible approaches to media texts.

Handout 4: Comparing tabloids and broadsheets

Task 1 Quickly scan the table below trying to work out which type of newspapers the information in the respective column refers to and put in the top cells of columns A and B the words ‘broadsheets’ and‘tabloids’.
Task 2 Fill in the numbered spaces with the words: cheaper, tabloid, twice, expensive, low, broadsheet, gutter press, in-depth, high heavyweights, human interest political. Some of the words can be used more than once.

A. B.
Size Are half the size of (1)….. Are (7)……the size of (8)…..
Coverage More often concentrate on (2)……..stories than hard news More often concentrate on (9)…….coverage of (10)…….national and international news
Cost Are (3)……..than (4)…….. Are more (11)……..than (12)…….
Circulation Usually have (5)……..circulation figures Usually have (13)…… circulation figures
Referred to as The (6)……..
The yellow press (less usual)
The quality press
The (14)……….

After Edgington, B. and Montgomery, M. The Media, the British Council, 1996, p.140
(Adapted from Tsvetkova, Karastateva ‘Media Studies’, Module 2, Unit 2, ‘Intercultural Studies for Language Teachers’, a post graduate distance learning course, p. 5

How can the layout of a newspaper article help represent a piece of news?

Questions for the groups (T divides Ps in 4 groups and gives each two groups copies of one and the same article so that there are two groups working on (Woodhead laments boys’  writing score) and two groups working on Boys are write-off target in spelling and the same set of questions:

Group 1: (Woodhead laments boys’  writing score)

  • What page has the article been published on? Where is it placed on the page?
  • What does it tell you about the medium’s attitude to the news presented?
  • What is the size of the headline compared to the size of the text?
  • (How) does the headline influence the way the reader will approach the story?

Group 2: (Boys are write-off target in spelling)

  • What page has the article been published on? Where is it placed on the page?
  • What does it tell you about the medium’s attitude to the news presented?
  • What is the size of the headline compared to the size of the text?
  • (How) does the headline influence the way the reader will approach the story?

Group 3: (Woodhead laments boy’s writing score)and

  • Are there any photographs? What do they represent and how (if any)?
  • Does the caption of the photograph help understand its meaning?
  • Is the text a uniform whole (observe the use of different typefaces, fonts, colours, italicising, underlining, etc)What do their presence (or absence) imply?
  • How do the above influence the reader’s attitude to the story?

Group 4: (Boys are write-off target in spelling)

  • Are there any photographs? What do they represent and how (if any)?
  • Does the caption of the photograph help understand its meaning?
  • Is the text a uniform whole (observe the use of different typefaces, fonts, colours, italicising, underlining, etc)What do their presence (or absence) imply?
  • How do the above influence the reader’s attitude to the story?

Some possible answers

Woodhead laments boy’s writing score Boys are write-off target in spelling
  • p. 6
  • the top quarter of the page
  • its being placed at the top shows that the medium gives it priority over the other ‘educational news’ which follow below
  • the typefaces of the headline are bigger than those of the text
  • it prepares the reader for what is to follow, namely the regret over boys’ low scores but without the sarcasm of the Sun, it sounds more serious
  • Only one – of Mr Woodhead looking through the blinds of his office window as if not directly involved in the situation
  • The photo is far more meaningful than the caption
  • The language is quite formal, the sentences are relatively long. There are a lot of quotes, too but they are not separated from the rest of the text by means of typography in this way suggesting that the author is trying to give as many opinions on the issue as possible
  • The tone is a serious one
  • They imply that the medium is impartial, trying to draw a dfetailed picture of 11-year-olds problems with writing
  • p. 6
  • central placedespite the number of the page
  • despite the number of the page, the space it occupies makes the readers believe that the issue of illiteracy is an important one according to the medium. It also becomes clear that there is another material devoted to the same problem on p. 8
  • the headline stands out against the body of the text; there are several subtitles breaking the uniformity of the text
  • prepare the reader for thesun’s attitude, namely that the test results are alarming despite the soothing words of Mr Woodhead
  • yes, the reader expects to find out about boys’ being illiterate.
  • The photo of Mr Woodhead is smaller in comparison to the mock schools inspector 2000 final report
  • The caption hints at the possible reason for Mr W.’s quitting post and prepares the reader for the sarcasm in the text below
  • Semi-formal language, a lot of quotes, a lot of subheading of different size, which imitate spoken language
  • The tone is sarcastic
  • The reader tends to disbelieve the words of government officials and identify themselves with the voice of the medium