IATEFL JOURNEY (2): Jeremy Harmer: Telling and Retelling : the magic of stories in ELT

It was interesting to start the day’s sessions with Jeremy Harmer’s. He showed a photo of a group of young men with two ladies and asked us to guess who these were, he started a discussion on it. Then he introduced 2 o3 paragraphs and each time he told us it is part of the story of this photo and asked us to guess which part of the story was it (introduction, middle or end). Then he gave us the different paragraphs and asked us to arrange them (Puzzle Story). After that we knew it was the story a famous film called The Wolf Pack which told us the true story of a family of 6 or 7 twins and their mother and their life problem.  

Jeremy then started discussing how we can teach such a story in class and how we can benefit our students from it as much as possible. He discussed that we can refer our students to the internet to dig behind the story and present it in different ways. He as well as other participants suggested introducing the story using a video followed by discussions and group work, using graphic organizers …etc. He also suggested using the text to tackle different grammar lessons (the difference between adjs and advs for example). This can be used with different levels of students.

After tackling the story with the different outcomes, the students can be asked to summarise the story in their own words or act a scene from the movie, record it and set it on You Tube. They can then wait for mutual comments from their classmates. This would give students great confidence to develop their Speaking skills and encourage them to use the language more freely.

 Stay Tuned for more diaries to come   :)

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Memories along IATEFL journey!! (1)

Quite a long journey that deserves striving for. Whenever I travel I consider I am on a learning or educational (knowledge) journey!! I do my best to enjoy every minute of it. This time it was a long way to IATEFL Glasgow. I took the plane first to London and spent the transit hours by London Tower Bridge enjoying the Thames scenery.  The river water helps you relax and set your thoughts behind. Then, I took the train for 6 hours on a long tiring journey to Glasgow. I arrived in the early morning, set my bags and rushed to IATEFL Conference. I was finally there!! Yet I had to run distances from one session to the other. This is the price of learning!! I enjoyed the talks and discussions over there, meeting new and old colleagues and talking to different distinguished Speakers. I attended an interesting session for Jeremy Harmer. I missed his talks so much. I also enjoyed Carol Reed’s session as well. I will soon be setting the details of these sessions.  Stay tuned!!

Travelling by train or bus in England is interesting especially by bus as it gives you the chance to enjoy the wonderful beauty of the English Countryside. Along the way you feel the beauty of nature in the wide meadows with sheep scattered here and there enjoying the pastures!!

What serenity!! It reminded me of Wordsworth’s idea of ‘recollected in tranquility’, but this time I was so much affected that I held my pen and started writing right away. Meadows here, small woods there, yellow wonderful daffodils sprout along the way saying hello. I wish I could have the time and money to go on long walks through these places. You find the trees clothed with green leaves along the stems and the small shrubs peeking among the tall trees. Even the greenery had all the degrees that you could imagine. I thought they were only in cartoon films and pictures, but they are there!! Imagine!!

Wondering at such beauty, I remembered how much I enjoyed Thomas Hardy’s meticulous description of nature and wondered how he did that!! That reminded me also of Jane Austen’s novels and the long walks her heroines took in the forests. Remember Eliza running through the muddy rainy woods to go to her friend’s house in Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know why, I also remembered Miss Potter’s stories and life as soon as I saw the hilly pastures. Maybe because they look somehow like the area of Lake District where she used to live.

We are approaching the city by now, it’s time to hold this beauty in heart and move ahead!! At least I tried to stop and stare as William Henry Davis once said in his poem ‘Leisure’
          A poor life this if, full of care,
         We have no time to stand and stare

STAY TUNED for more memories to come!!


IATEFL First Day Plenary

  Check what Gabriel Diaz came to say on Professional Development for Teachers 

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STAY TUNED  for updates for some Conference Sessions here on the BLOG and on our Facebook PAGE


Meeting Adrian Underhill at Nile Tesol 2017

What a pleasure it was to have an interesting chat with Adrian Underhill over a cup of tea!! I was really looking forward to attending his session, but unfortunately, the traffic detained me for the first workshop :(, but I caught the next Keynote Speech!! :)
We chatted about the idea of Improvisation and how it is necessary for teachers, but it needs a lot of training and courage on the teacher's part to be able to venture into new ideas.

He also talked about his diversified interests into Leadership, Improvisation and Teacher as a Facilitator!!

Thank you Adrian Underhill it was a real pleasure talking to you :)
You really made my day :)

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Weekly Discussions

      Today we are going to speak about an interesting article falling under the category of Teaching Young Learners in English Teaching Professional called Systematic Storytelling by Masuko Miyahara. It provides a different view of teaching stories in class. The ideas Masuko presented can also be applied to teens and high school students even Adults. She believed that teachers can use stories to:
1.                  Develop language awareness
2.                  Learn how to learn
3.                  Create curriculum links
4.                  Carry out projects
5.                  Develop critical awareness

1.                  Developing language awareness:

She chose a very simple story called Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins. She suggested that the teacher can use such a story to attract students’ attention to the usage of prepositions accompanied by sounds for example: buzz, baa, oink, splash, splish…etc. Also the usage of new vocabulary

2.                  Learning to learn:

“A range of activities involving study skills such as counting, comparing, sequencing…. Etc are outlined.” Also we can use these to help kids to move and perform the activities of the story thus adding the physical side to the work done. This is what we call TPR – Total Physical Response. Masuko also suggests using it to develop children drawing skills as well.

3.                  Creating curriculum links:

This can also be linked or used to practice Math, Science, Geography and Physical Education skills.

4.                  Carrying out projects

These can be of great benefit to develop the students’ Speaking skills and “foster a sense of cooperation in order to attain mutual goals.”

5.                  Developing critical awareness:

This can be used with much older students and help them to compare the figuring of foxes and wolves in stories as bad guys. This story can be compared to other stories like Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs as well as others. These can also be contrasted with Big Bad Wolf is Good. Also the usage of different animals in stories in different cultures can be discussed as well.

     Masuko closes the article with “I believe the novelty of my approach lies in the attempt to show how the five orientations I describe could be employed to broaden and increase the educational value of a story.”

     These interesting points mentioned, remind me of Bloom’s Taxonomy, HOTS (High Order Thinking Skills). The HOTS steps deal with the developed application, analysis, evaluation and creation skills. The Application of the steps suggested by Masuko help students function the usage of language learnt. By comparing and contrasting stories, we are helping students to think in class, reflect upon what they have studied, analyse and then speak of write about. This is a great way of applying Critical Thinking in class. When preparing to present their opinions and reflections, students can use mind maps, PPPs, short notes or summarize or even put it in a report form. This helps students develop their Writing skills greatly as well as their Speaking ones.

      Through these steps, students can develop “a sense of cooperation”, develop the usage of new vocabulary, phrasal verbs, prepositions, expressions…etc. and they can also be linked to other subjects like Science and Math for example. Thus these can be used as part of a CLIL school project as well


Hutchins, P Rosie’s Walk Scholastic Inc. 1968

Miyahara, Masuko, Systematic Storytelling, English Teaching Professional, March 2005

Puttock, S Big Bad Wolf is Good Guillan Children's Books 2001

Trivizas, E The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig Mammoth  1993

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    It has been some time since I wrote my last article.  During the last few months I gave a number of Training Workshops which made me reflect on the attitude of teachers towards Professional Development.

    For sure, seeking Professional Development has become an essential part of the teaching profession. Yet in the 21st century there are still teachers/people who believe the opposite!! I wonder why?! Whose fault is it??! Most probably their way of bringing up and education have to play an important role in that!! The ability to look forward and reflect upon your needs as a teacher is a blessing not given to many people!! Through my observations as well, I found that school administrations play an important role in increasing or pushing teachers’ desire to attain Professional Development. Many teachers believe since they are doing well with their students in class, this means that they are great teachers. Why, then, the need for PD?! Why bother?? Why pay a lot of money??! This is what PD means to them. If Schools set strong ties between PD and annual teacher evaluation, teachers won’t think that way!!! They need to understand:

n               **  The difference between formal and informal PD
            **  PD can be done online and on a personal basis for FREE!!
** We as teachers need so much to REFLECT on our work in class, think of different ways and methods of assessing our work in order to help our students improve with learning the language
** We need to set clear cut objectives for our work besides the weekly and term plan. We need to think what skills do we need to improve this year and how?!?!

**  It is also essential that the teachers share with their Seniors and Supervisors in setting plans for the weekly and term plan as well as preparing the booklets required for written or additional work in class. Nothing should be dictated. If they don’t know, teach them!!?!
** Teachers need to go through the whole of their course books (both 1st and 2nd term) before setting plan of work. They need to know: where does the book start? How does it go from there? Why and how does it end?

Reflection ……… Reflection ……… Reflection …. is the key to Professional Development and teaching skills enhancement. It may seem a little bit difficult at the beginning, but it becomes easier with more practice.


     A final important point in mind, is Peer Observation or Peer Benefit Exchange, as I’d prefer to call it, is really important. We need to change our perspective of the idea!?!?! We can exchange class experiences, activities, ways of lesson preparation, attend each other’s classes and exchange PD and info. This is a great support for novice teachers and a wonderful boost for experienced ones.
    I’d be more than happy to read about your reflections on these ideas    J



Which Route to Take??!     A Lot of Food for Thought from Scott Thornbury Plenary Birmingham 2016

     I really enjoyed listening to Scott Thornbury’s Plenary talk for a second time after IATEFL was over!! The Spirit of the Conference is still in the air with a lot of sessions and interviews to follow!!

     Scott started his talk with the 1966s and how linguists and educationalists gave great importance to teaching grammar and following rules without giving enough importance to ‘Communicative Competence’. He gave examples of linguists who tried to go against this trend as Dell Hymes who divided learning the language into:

n  Sociolinguistic competence
n  Linguistic competence
n  Strategic competence

While New Mark called for not teaching bits and bits of language. “Language is learned a whole act at a time not an assemblage of tasks”. Followed by Pit Corder who said that “language is not knowledge, but a set of skills”. Also Asher came forward introducing the idea of Total Physical Response.

       Yet these ideas were contradicted by linguists like Bruce Pattison in 1967 Plenary of ATEFL saying “The much publicized revolution is not a leap forward, but a regression into routine and dullness.” We could also hear people speaking about training students “to learn by making as few mistakes as possible”.

        These ideas went to and fro until the call for ‘Communicative Language Teaching’ started to appear by 1971 with Postman and Weingartner, Chris Candin, Savignon, Widdowson……etc. This was followed by a mix of the two trends during the following years, yet the sounds for ‘Communicative Language Teaching’ became louder and more acceptable.

       Here Scott started attracting our attention to a fact that we need to “rebrand what we do as ‘educational’…… We can’t forget that we are part of the bigger field of education.” Teachers should not be turned just into service providers, suffering from the fact that they have to train students how to pass tests. Publishers as well need to be looking into the real needs of Students not just to think that they think they only want to learn about grammar.

      As a final conclusion, Scott summed up the whole situation of teaching English into Three Routes:

1.                 Pragmatic Route
            Listen ---- English is a subject to be practiced and tested
                              Developing the Reading ability should be an Objective

2.                 Dogmatic Route
n  Get rid of the Course Books and go back to using language in class for its purpose
n  Use language Communicatively
n  Perhaps we could think of getting rid of teachers as Sugata Mitra mentioned last IATEFL!!

3.                 Dialectic Route
n  Combine both  ---- use Holistic Method

     As a way out, he gave two examples of two very interesting projects as food for thought for the future:

1.                 Learning in the Wild (Nordic Countires)
           Where the people learning the native language are asked to go out to the streets to places or shops where they inter act with people and try to use the language and if they get stuck, they can call a volunteer for help!! It is a way to communicate class with real Language use!!

2.                 Hands Up Project  by Nick Bilbrough and the British Council
           Where Nick tries to help students in areas like Gaza and Syria to learn English and improve their communicative ability by communicating with them online.

     Ending up with L.G.Kelly’s quote “The Place of grammar in the learning process has never been really clear, for even when the tide has been running in a certain direction, some teachers have always tried the opposite”, he gave us food for thought for the future of English language teaching!!

      It is time for a new outlook for teaching for the future, should we only be thinking of following, any of the routes mentioned, or the dialectic one or have a braver leap of mixing ‘real language use’ with everyday teaching classes???!!

PS: For full references, refer back to Scott Thornbury’s Plenary on https://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2016/session/plenary-scott-thornbury

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