Monday, October 03, 2011

guest post by Tessa Woodward, author of Thinking in the EFL Class

Recently, I asked Tessa Woodward (author of Planning Lessons and Courses, and editor of The Teacher Trainer) to submit a blog post about her new book, Thinking in the EFL Class (Helbling Languages). She responded with this wonderful piece on the writing process:

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People often ask of a writer, ’How long did it take you to write your book?’ It’s a tricky question to answer because it just depends when you start the counting.

Do you start with the day you do something different in class and the students love it and start laughing and talking? Or with the thinking up of other ideas and trying them out? The doing of the background reading? The realising you are in an ’area’ of work which is building up quite a mass of paper in your study? Or with the conversations with friends that you have as you struggle to tell them, clearly, what you are up to at the moment professionally. Or with the writing of proposals to publishers and the discussions to see if what they want and what you think you can give are the same? Or with the actual first day of sitting down and planning out chapters for the publisher who IS interested in what you think you can provide? Oh and then there is the writing or typing. Do you count the conferences you go to where you search in vain in the programme for something that looks like what you are into? Do you include the desk editing of hundreds of pages to make them lean and fit? And choosing colours for the cover and writing artwork briefs for the cartoonist? Yes, you have to include all that. But do you also count the exploratory self-published book on a similar subject brought out some years ago? Hmm. Should really.

So I guess the shortest possible time I could say, if you mean the actual sitting down and scribbling and then re-scribbling would be ‘18 months’ and the longest would be, ‘About 9 years!’

What I CAN say though is ……’I enjoyed every last bit of it. I really like making things!

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For more information about Tessa's new book, visit the Helbling Languages website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Upcoming ELT conferences in Taiwan 2011 and 2012

There will be quite a few ELT conferences this year in Taiwan.

One of the best known is the ETA - ROC International Symposium on Language Teaching which will take place in November. This year's symposium contains a number of "big names", including Stephen Krashen, Rod Ellis, Paul Nation, Ken Hyland and Tim Murphey.

Another conference that looks promising is the 2011 NTUT International Conference on Applied Linguistics, also in November. Michael Hoey and Susan M. Gass will be presenting.

For more information about these two conferences, as well as several others in 2011, go to the list of conferences on the Forumosa website:

ELT Conferences 2011

In addition, take a look at this list of conferences in 2012:

ELT Conferences 2012

Friday, April 08, 2011

guest post by Michael Rost, author of Teaching and Researching Listening

Michael Rost is a well-known figure in ELT. He's written and edited many excellent books on listening, including Introducing Listening, Listening in Action, and Listening in Language Learning (as well as numerous coursebooks). He's also behind a new game that will certainly appeal to teenagers and young adults. His latest book, Teaching and Researching Listening(2nd Edition), is a comprehensive overview of research in second language listening. I contacted him recently and asked him to do a guest blog post. He sent me back this superb article.

The Importance of Listening Events
by Michael Rost

I was 21 years old, fresh out of college with a teaching degree. Bouyant, confident, ready to rock and roll! I had just finished 8 weeks of intensive language teaching training in West Africa, along with daily (relentless!) French language immersion. I was champing at the bit to teach my first class at a high school in Lome, Togo.

I stood in the bright morning sunshine, and following the attedance ritual that was being modeled by my teaching colleagues, I began to call out the names of my students, one by one. They were all lined up single file, in their crisp brown and white uniforms, squinting at me, this young bearded foreigner who was supposed to be their new English teacher. I didn’t get very far. On the very first name, Ag-be-fi-ah-nu, I stumbled. In a flash, all 80 of the teenage students who were lined up began to giggle and shuffle uncomfortably. This was going to be a long awkward experience for us all.

I took a deep silent breath, letting it sink in that I had absolutely no idea what to do. In that moment, I had a simple realization. I could “pretend” to be someone else, someone who knew exactly how to handle this, or I could let them know how I really felt – new, raw, and vulnerable. I took the clipboard of names, and handed it to Mr. Agbefianu (whose name I had just butchered) and asked him to call the roll. As each student was called (in fluent Ewe) and stepped forward toward the classroom door, I looked them in the eye, shook their hand, and welcomed them to the class. It turned out to be the perfect beginning for both the school year and for my career as a teacher.

I call this kind of experience an “epiphany” – an unplanned, unexpected understanding of something important. The understanding arrives in an instant, in a flash, from somewhere we didn’t previously know existed. Like most teachers, I have had a few epiphanies during my career, and I’ve learned to trust these moments to bring me guidance, a grain of wisdom perhaps, and most certainly a dose of humility.

I think of these moments as “listening events”, because I’m somehow able to open up, to listen without expectations, and to allow myself to understand something meaningful.

Starting with that first year of my teaching career – perhaps even triggered by this opening day event – I became increasingly interested in the notion of listening events and listening more generally. To this day, some years later, I remain intrigued with listening, and the essential role it plays in learning.

Though I have deconstructed the act of listening in minute detail (see the first section of my book, Teaching and Researching Listening, which describes listening from neurological, linguistic, semantic, and pragmatic perspectives), I am still convinced that these “listening events”, experienced holistically, are central to understanding listening – and to teaching listening as a skill.

I can generate lists of “teaching tips” about listening (and have done so on numerous occasions), but if I have to boil it down to a single piece of advice, I say this: To teach listening, you simply have to create listening events, give minimal guidance, and allow real listening (not just “practice listening”) to happen!

What is a listening event? I think three factors are always evident. One, it is a “high stakes situation” in which a participant – whom we’ll call the listener – experiences an initial confusion or frustration or a misunderstanding of what’s taking place and converts this to a need to undertand. Two, the listener needs to be “invested”: the situation has to be important enough that the listener’s “emotions run high.” Because of the emotional intensity, three, the listener becomes “present”, and activates a heightened sensory awareness to achieve an understanding of what is going on.

Without investment, there is no involvement. And without involvement, there is no cognitive or emotional engagement. The listener is just going through the motions, “practicing” listening – something all teachers have witnessed many a time. Note for the record: I have nothing against “practicing” – practice is essential for sustaining progress – but these listening events are more important in the grand scheme of things. They serve as “triggers” that develop and sustain a learner’s motivation.

Listening events are not difficult to set up. Ideas that have worked for me: values clarification exercises (see Hall Houston’s Provoking Thought, Chapter 4, for numerous ideas), watching emotional speeches (see for some inspiring examples; check out the “Movie Speeches” for some great moments), and “high-stakes conversations” (see Eric Roth and Toni Aberson’s Compelling Conversations Section 1 for launchpad ideas).

There are lots of methodology tips and techniques to employ to get the most out of listening events. (I outline some approaches in Section 3 of Teaching and Researching Listening.) But most teachers, trusting their own instincts and informed by their own teaching epiphanies, are likely not to need detailed suggestions for making listening events work. The key is the right starting point, the right perspective. As I discovered in my first language teaching job, it’s OK not to be an expert, it’s OK not to know. In fact, some of our greatest insights – even epiphanies – come when we let ourselves “not know”.

-Michael Rost (7 April 2011)

Friday, February 25, 2011

upcoming ELT conferences in Taiwan

The following are a few upcoming ELT conferences in Taiwan well worth your attention.

On March 10-12, Ming Chuan University will host the 2011 International Conference and Workshop on TEFL & Applied Linguistics, which will feature some important names such as Jack Richards and Leo Van Lier. The conference will also include a presentation by Rose Senior, who wrote the unforgettable Cambridge University Press title, The Experience of Language Teaching.

The 2011 International Conference on English Professional Communication and Instructional Technology will take place at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences on May 6th. One of the main speakers is John Flowerdew, whose book Second Language Listening (co-authored with Lindsay Miller) is one of my favorite books on teaching listening.

National Taichung University of Education will hold the 28th International Conference on English Teaching and Learning in R.O.C. on May 14 and 15. Rod Ellis and James Dean Brown will be plenary speakers.

If that's not enough for you, you can find more ELT conferences in Taiwan here:


Thursday, January 20, 2011

going GLOBAL

A new coursebook series that has been getting a lot of attention these days is Global. Lindsay Clandfield is the mastermind behind this unique, sophisticated course. Recently, I was invited to compose an essay on critical thinking for the Global Upper Intermediate Teacher's Book. I was extremely surprised and honored to be asked to contribute to such a distinguished series of coursebooks, especially when the other essays belonged to famous names such as Rose Senior, Scott Thornbury, Jim Scrivener and David Crystal. Below is the cover of the recently published teacher's book:

For a little more information about Global, here are a few links:

Six Things To Know About Global - Six Things Blog

Six More Things To Know About Global - Six Things Blog

Six Things To Know About An E-Workbook - Six Things Blog

Learn more about the Global Coursebooks

I've used some of the sample materials from Global that are available on the Macmillan website, and got a very positive response from students. I'm hoping to use the Global series with future classes.