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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Visual Literacy in Creating Classroom Materials - John Hughes

Still enjoying the sensation of IATEFL, I went on watching the sessions I missed during the conference online. It was a great pleasure to watch John Hughes’ session about Visual Literacy. He believes that teachers want ‘pictures’ to say something in the classroom. He also believes that the means of transforming pictures has developed a lot meangenerated.net

Teachers/we use images in the classroom for :
** Comprehension
** Critical Thinking
** Creativity

Thus ‘Visual Literacy’ is used to convey:
** Constructed Meaning
** Communicated Meaning
** Combined Meaning

A)                Constructed Meaning

        What does the image mean? The students use basic vocabulary to describe an image.
         Exercises such as ‘matching pictures with words’ can be used
         Pictures of actions can be used to practice Grammar rules.
         Lots of exercises can be found on this website         www.englishexercises.org/makegame/viewgame.asp?id=2431 

        The App called fotobabble.com can also be used where students can upload photos and record themselves talking about it and later on they can show it to their class.

       Hughes believes that ‘Dual Code Theory’ can be applied to using images with text as the brain works on two levels to understand: to look at the image, try to make out what it refers to and apply what the student reads to it to reach the required meaning. He believes there are many ways to combine both with the use of video.

B)                Communicated Meaning

           This deals mainly with Critical Thinking. Use the pictures to introduce ideas and urge the usage of Critical Thinking questions. Hughes suggested using a picture of a traffic jam, for example, and ask the students

n   to imagine they are either: a bike manufacturer, an environmental organizations, or a company specializing in nature holidays or a manufacturer of electric cars.
n   use the photo in an Advertisement and ask them to write a Slogan on it.
n  Make them think of the picture from different perspectives/ think about different perspectives
n  Encourage Ss to use an image on a Blog and write about it.

Such kind of activities encourage the development of HOT (High Order Thinking) Skills.

C)                Combined Meaning

           This is a mixture of the previous two steps in addition to integrating technology if possible.  He gave three examples of these:

1.                 In a book, there is a lesson about water with MCQ. Instead of just working out the article and the questions, ask the students to get out of class and take photos with their mobiles about anything related to water for about 10 minutes. Then come back to class and speak about it and their choice. This helps the Ss in developing the different meanings of things around them.

2.                 Choose photos, add them to fotobabble.com , as mentioned before and urge them to speak about them. Urge them to be creative.

3.                 He also introduced an interesting idea from a course book he wrote called “Life”. The teacher can use an App called ‘aurasma’ similar to QR Coder to scan a photo from the book and thus a short video starts playing about the topic of this photo. Or the students can go to the Grammar Reference at the back of the book, scan the grammatical item required with the App and thus a video of a teacher explaining the rule appears. This can be used by the teacher in class or the student at home. What an idea!!  

Hughes then ends his session with a sum up of these ideas as follows  

And ends up with the following References

You can watch it live on his session on   

STAY TUNED for more reviews!!



It has been a great pleasure and enjoyment to go through IATEFL Interviews. They gave me a good perspective of trainers and educationalists concepts, ideas and efforts. It was also great to hear about the different projects held in different countries to improve and enhance ELT. Here are two interesting interviews I watched during the 2nd day of the conference.

Tim Phillips -  British Council Teacher Development

He had recently joined an International Panel Discussion on CPD in School Education Systems.

1.                 What are some areas of good practice for teachers that you agreed on?
            Professional Development need be sustainable. It needs to be a ‘rhythm’ a part of the teacher’s life. The teachers need ‘follow up’ after training to see how they have been doing and if anything needs adjustment. It is also important for teachers and trainers to reflect on their work every now and then and evaluate what they have been doing.

2.                 Should PD be Pre-planned or should we look backwards?
            Teachers initially need to get qualified, need to take responsibility of CPD   (Continuous Professional Development). They need to consider its effect on Learners. It is important as well to know about new teaching trends. They also need to know about their personal needs and interests to revive their teaching.

3.                 Do you have advice for School Leaders?
            Yes, they need to take responsibility as well of PD for their teachers. They need to have positive direction not just evaluate their teachers as there are no fixed qualities.

4.                 During the Discussions, did you have any kind of disagreements or any controversial discussions?
           PD for English Teachers in particular with introducing English teaching in the Primary stage. In some countries, they believe that children shouldn’t start learning a second language until they finish the first nine years of the Primary school. There were some disagreements about when should children start learning a second language especially the ability of the child to process the language. I am with the view of concentrating resources in the secondary or high school rather than losing them by having unqualified teachers in the primary stage which would put the teachers of the secondary stage in front of the effort to put those children back on track and start all over again.

     Then we can move here to Alan Maley who spoke about Creativity SIG and how they started it about 3 years ago. He spoke about the importance of Creativity in teaching and that it is innate in the children, it is only when institutional education gets in, they get more and more screwed up.

     He mentioned that C SIG cooperated with other organizations like Literature SIG, Global SIG, TEASIG, as well as having off site events with Lit. Media Study SIG last year, we kind of stimulated interest in some overseas institutions like Tesol Greece, Malta having the whole conference on Creativity.  

     He believes that Teachers have to start being Creative before asking students to be so. It is a shift of Mind Set.

     The C SIG prepared a brochure of about 40 Presentations on Creativity to be presented at Iatefl this year and published this book with British Council “Creativity in the Classroom”. You can find it on the British Council website. It is free.

What with the future with C SIG?
     More collaborative events, more publications, more networking among membes as more people are doing very creative things and do not tell anybody about it. Sharing them is one of the key things on the website.  


STAY TUNED for more reviews!!


Diane Larsen excelled herself !!

Today Diane Larsen excelled herself with an interesting talk about 'Affordance'!!


How important is it for a teacher to grasp the idea of 'Affordance" to be able to help her/his students to 'Adapt' the learned language to its 'Environment' and learn how to enhance their use of the language!!

It's a highly rich Talk that needs to be heard more than once. 
You can find the recording here by the end of the day, hopefully!!

With these words, she ended her Talk ......

STAY TUNED for more details!!

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