It is the end of another year and now I see people analysing the year, data and numbers comparing 2019 to years gone by with New Year resolutions forming in their minds. That is fine. I have also done this all my life, with the feeling that as the New Year begins, I can begin changing my life too, and fulfil all my plans.
However, one thing I noticed among teachers is that most of them focus on what they should have done differently or what they couldn’t do in their classes because there was no time or energy or even materials left. Moreover, some of them had the feeling they have not participated in enough CPD (Continuous Professional Development) activities because they were too busy teaching and planning their classes. I too had such feelings as another year comes to an end. It was only when I was conducting a teacher training session a while ago focussing on practices to make teachers more aware of what they have accomplished, that I realised myself how much I had done this year.
At this very moment, we, as teachers may be too tired to realise what we have achieved during the year. Take a moment to reflect on the things you have learnt and put into practice, lesson plans you have adjusted to adapt to your students’ needs and all the minds you managed to reach this year. If we are really aware of all the good things we do, we can create more opportunities and multiply ways to realise them. In order to so, I created some activities to do with teachers at the beginning of the year.
1.Looking back at achievements
It is very easy to focus on failures and under achievements, and that is exactly what most people do. However, recalling achievements and past successes make us feel that if we could do it then, we can always do it.
How to do it: cut out papers in the shape of a petal. Give five petals to each teacher and ask them to focus on five achievements and successes they have achieved during the past year. Ask teachers to make a dog rose and display them on the wall or board. Have teachers read them all and discuss the similarities and differences.
No matter how small the achievements are, keeping a note will prevent teachers from losing perspective and help everyone to plan ahead.
2.Three things exercise
The Three Things exercise allows teachers to keep track of activities they do in the classroom or professional development activities and how they make them feel. It is also an excellent way to prioritise our tasks when planning may be too daunting.
How to do it: ask teachers to write three activities they did in class over the last year and that went well. After that, ask them to write how those activities made them feel. Put them in pairs and have them share the activities and feelings. Most importantly, make them compliment, criticise, and ask questions.
As a follow-up, you can ask teachers to write about the activities that were similar, things they learnt and reflections attached to them for future reference.
3. Problem solving activity
Problem solving activities help teachers develop critical thinking, creativity, and be more prepared to meet challenging tasks in the classroom. Besides, problem-solving also keeps the mind engaged and improves the decision-making abilities when faced with a difficult situation in the classroom.
How to do it: ask teachers to write down a difficult situation that they faced in the past year. Do not let them write or share what they did to solve it. Exchange the situations in pairs and ask them to come up with a solution. Pair them up and ask them to compare with what was actually done. Finally, have them discuss if it was the best alternative and what they can do differently in the future.
When verbalising thoughts and discussing with others, teachers may become more aware of the process they have gone through to solve problems in the classroom.
4.Multiple learning sources
Using a variety of learning sources can help teachers sustain their interest in task-planning and engage more in delivering the main aims in class.
How to do it: ask teachers to write an activity they did in the class last year, without explaining how they did it. In pairs or groups, the other teachers have to suggest what was used to accomplish that activity, such as visual images, slide shows, online activities and other resources. Make teachers write a list of resources they actually used and how they can do it differently in the future.
A myriad of learning sources can make the class more exciting and invite creativity in the whole learning procedure.
When we listen to feedback of our peers and mentors and let them play the role of an honest mirror, we may see things from a different point of view.
How to do it: in pairs, have teachers share a classroom activity they think did not go well or as planned during the last year. Ask their peer to give open, honest, critical, and objective perspectives.
Teachers may see that a situation which they considered a failure was in fact a successful activity.
6.What I want to learn
Technology is developing so fast that many teachers can feel behind or isolated when they believe that other teachers and students know so much more than they do. We need to give an opportunity to learn and share knowledge within our teaching community.
How to do it: teachers make a list of equipment they would like to use, apps they have heard of but have not tried and techniques they could use but have never had the opportunity to do so. Collect the lists and put each idea on a separate piece of paper. On the paper, have space for names of those people who can teach how to use the equipment and space for names of those who want to learn. Stick the papers on the walls around the room and invite teachers to wander around, adding their names to where they can teach how to do an activity and where they want to learn. After studying the papers, you have the beginnings of a series of practical teacher training sessions for the New Year led by the experts – the teachers – themselves.
At the end of the session, ask teachers to record all their thoughts and feelings, successes and achievements that were shared and discussed. When teachers work together to reflect, monitor, and evaluate themselves, they are able to become more self-reliant, productive, and flexible. They can be more resilient when feeling the stress of a long teaching period and have firm control of their teaching style and positive achievements, all of which contribute to making them bring more creative practices into the classroom.
Happy Creative 2020!
Malu Sciamarelli has been an active member of the ELT community since 1993, working as a teacher and teacher trainer. While developing her skills as a teacher and trainer, she has also been an active member of a group of teachers dedicated to increase the amount of creativity found in language classrooms throughout the world. She has published book chapters on 'Teaching Children with Mascot-Inspired Projects' (British Council 2015), the importance of creativity and play in language learning (British Council, 2017), and the exploration and extension of Prabhu’s concept of ‘the teacher’s sense of plausibility’ in Developing expertise through experience (British Council, 2019). Currently, she is the coordinator of the Creativity Group and a graduate student in Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching at the University of Oxford, UK.
'A IN ABC...IS FOR ART' by Chrysa Papalazarou is an A to Z approach through artworks and is aimed at young learners:
Teach Art Learn English is a pilot project designed as a collaborative, innovative initiative between The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection, Novi Sad, Serbia and The English Language Teachers’ Association of Serbia (ELTA). The project brings together the cultural heritage that is kept in the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection with the active learning of English as a foreign language. The whole project is supported by Novi Sad 2021 The European Capital of Culture Foundation and The Provincial Secretariat For Culture, Public Information and Relations with Religious Communities in Vojvodina, Serbia.
The major goal behind the project is to encourage EFL teachers to use The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection (185 paintings from the first half of the 20th century) for the purpose of teaching English to teenagers. The whole collection was divided into five groups: landscapes, still-life, genre-scene, nude and portrait in order to teach students basic art vocabulary together with different elements and styles of painting.
The thematic working material was designed by experienced ELTA teacher trainers who worked closely with an expert curator on designing EFL assignments. The thematic working material was tested in six dynamic workshops with 13-to 18-year –old students in the period of October-December, 2018. The project itself was divided into two parts, a pre-visit lesson and a 90- minute workshop in the museum. In the pre-visit lesson, students in their schools, two primary schools, two vocational secondary schools and one grammar school had been trained how to behave in a gallery prior to their visit. Also, they had been acquainted with The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection and the collector himself through a reading comprehension text and exercises. They had also been taught art vocabulary through engaging activities. In six workshops, the curator guided students in English through the collection in order to revise the vocabulary and check how much they had remembered from the pre –lesson. Then they were divided into five groups: landscapes, still-life, genre-scene, nude and portrait and were given assignments accordingly. The students worked in groups on the painting they chose themselves. Later in the workshop, the students reflected on the whole experience and expressed their thoughts and feelings in different ways, which was uploaded on TALE Facebook page and TALE Instagram profile. The English teacher and the curator were seen as scaffolders, or facilitators who provided the challenges that students needed for achieving more. Thus, the whole concept of teaching promoted learner autonomy in general. The rationale for promoting it is rooted in the premise that learning takes place by encouraging students to go the extra mile and not to be afraid to make mistakes, making them confident to work by themselves, by involving students in reflection into their individual learning preferences and strategies and by encouraging them to further their learning of English in situations outside the classroom without help from any teacher.
The program was highly regarded by both teachers and students who appreciated the opportunity to be actively engaged in a unique and engaging learning environment. If you want to see more about the project please visit TALE Facebook page or look at TALE Instagram profile.
Team members: Gordana Klasnja, Jasmina Jaksic, Olja Milosevic, Vladimir Siroki and Anica Djokic.
Text by Gordana Klasnja
Alan Maley, who is the plenary speaker for the ELTA Conference in May 2019, talks to Vicky Papageorgiou in this issue of their newsletter.
Click on the image to read the interview and to have access to the whole issue:
For more information about the ELTA Conference 2019,
follow the link below:
Storytelling is not just for children like some might imagine. I spend a good part of time working with 'Adults and Storytelling' from entirely different brackets - Government officials, corporate employees, Associate Professors of universities, Research Scholars, school teachers and others. Some updates from my recent sessions. The last month found me travelling across the country spreading the magic of storytelling and learning along the way :)
Teacher training in Tirupathi, performing in Delhi meeting puppeteers. Being a judge for 'Sciensation's - Socratic Diaologue Competition during HLF Hyderabad Literary Festival. Performing the Musical Storytelling for Adults & Children - Bhakti Poets of India. Launching the book of dear friend Ramendra Kumar. Conducting a workshop for Associate Professors on 'Role of Storytelling in Teaching Soft Skills to under-graduates & post-graduates'. Speaking as the Chief Guest at St Francis College, Annual Art Celebration- 'La Fiesta' . Conducting a workshop at IIT Chennai for Post-Graduate students - 'Role of Oral Narratives and traditions'. 'Weaving Tales' collaborative Musical Storytelling for Adults & Children, with dear friend and an amazing teller Scottish storyteller Marion Kenny at the British Council, Chennai orchestrated by Eric Miller who brings storytellers together. Spoke at two presentations at National conferences with government officials at NIRD - for on 'Storytelling and its Possibilities' : for Drug Abuse Awareness and for advocacy : Sustainable development & Special Justice. Enjoyed fun story-sharing of nonsense tales with children at Kanpur. Musical Ramayana at Kiran Nadar Museum of Arts, Noida .
All these were possible thanks to many people Dr Viajy, Dr Rajesh, Prof Krishna Kumar, Shefali, Disha, Tarun, Venkat, Gayatri and Sammy !
And a very special episode has been recording an Audio Musical Story - It was in 1997 that my neighbour and dear friend Cecilia Abraham introduced me to All India Radio. "Why don't you apply for Yuvavani English Compere.The application is out. Auditions are next month" she said. She was doing a great job there and I was excited by the idea. I did apply. I remember the first time I entered the AIR studio for the audition, and many many times later for the training with our official boss the Program Executive, Mr Sumanaspati Reddy who was in every way a mentor to each one of us. I remember the adrenaline rush of going live. Still have my first cheque of Rs 600/- It was a beautiful journey over the next 5 years. Though with my Master's course I couldn't be as regular as I wished, yet the study of English literature at the Central University of Hyderabad, only fed into work at AIR and vice-versa. We had a great team, full of madness and zest for life. Stopping for small tea - breaks in between long editing and recording hours. Documentaries, drama, interviews, talk shows, music shows, tri-lingual Sunday shows. We did them all. And loved it all. Even the critical comments from Sumanspati Sir... especially the critical comments. If we heard nothing from him....it was a day to celebrate !! It meant 'You have done a good job'. A rare approval . But that's what grew us. We knew and yet didn't know how much, how deep the learning is. Whenever I am invited to the radio station for an interview talk show now, I get excited all over again.
Thankfully voice-over projects keep happening and I get to be in front of the microphone. And so working on the Afo Storytime Radio project for Malaysia was fantastic ! Thank you Sahnthini inviting me to share stories, to Panduranga for the amazing recording and Mohit Garg for valuable inputs. As good friends egged me on, I decided to upload the audio story on my SoundCloud (for those who are not familiar: think of it as an audio version of YouTube) It would truly warm my heart when you take a little time to listen to this 12 minute Musical story:
Andrew Wright and Alan Maley both believe that, as members of the C Group, we should 'walk the walk' as well as just 'talk the talk'. So they got together with Andy Rouse to put on a evening of stories, poems and folk songs at the English Department of Eotvos Lorens University in Budapest, Hungary, on 7 December 2018. The event was sponsored by IATEFL Hungary, in cooperation with the C group.
Andy Rouse has lived and worked in Pecs, Hungary for over 20 years. He is a passionate performer of English folk songs and has published a number of DVDs for teachers and others to use. Andrew Wright is a renowned story-teller, who has recently published his second volume of stories, 'Larger Than Life'. The stories he tells here are all his own. He too lives in Hungary. Alan Maley is a co-founder of the C group. He has recently published two volumes of his haiku ('What the Eye Sees' and 'How the Heart Responds'). All the poems he reads here are his own.
This is a video of the evening. We hope you will enjoy it.
If you have done any public performances similar to this - do share them with us on the C group website. If you haven't done anything like this, why not give it a try?
I am glad to share with you my journey. The year was 1989 and a 13 year old, wrote in her diary “I’d like to share stories with the world” and 3 decades later it turns out that she is travelling across the world and sharing stories! What began as the seed of a dream, grew into a bud in 1997: audio-storytelling in All India Radio and is blossoming as international storytelling even as 2019 even as 2019 peek-a-boos at the horizon.
From sharing ‘The butterfly story’ at a children’s camp in a little known town in India, to performing ‘Stories of Scotland- and India’s friendship’ at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh with a Scottish storyteller. The meandering flow with its twists and turns is a fascinating story in itself.
All along, as an educationalist I have been fortunate to explore opportunities of marrying 'Storytelling' and 'Its Pedagogical Possibilities' especially in English Language Teaching. With hundreds of performances and workshops, 15,000 teachers and 1 lakh children, it seems as though it was just yesterday that a teenager had penned down her wish to share stories.
I am thankful for living my dreams. And I am equally aware that there is a long way ahead: learning, sharing and growing together.
Stories and rhymes, music and movement, love and laughter fill me with energy. And I hope to touch more lives and be touched with this joyful engagement.
TED and other platforms have also helped me reach out to many more. If you’d like to stay connected with me and my work and know about upcoming performances, workshops and other developments, I invite to reach out through the medium of your choice:
You Tube https://www.youtube.com/user/storytellerdeepa
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Instagram – https://instagram.com/over2storyteller?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=1bbwaajov8y0f
Blog - http://over2deepakiran.blogspot.com/ (Being revived)
As we seek possibilities of exploring the world together……I thank you and wish you best.
Last weekend I attended the Tesol Greece annual convention called Be creative and Inspire. I gave a workshop on art and creative thinking in ELT. We explored how the integrated use of artful stimuli and thinking routines woven around social topics can foster the development not only of students’ language skills, but also help them develop their thinking. I hope it gave participants food for thought and encouraged them to explore the potentials that such an approach can have in the English classroom. There were about twenty-five people who attended the workshop which had three parts.
In the first part we worked together on the Looking 10×2 routine with The Wrested Heart, an intriguing piece of artwork by Peggy Lipschutz, an American artist and activist. While the workshop participants were sharing their ideas, I wrote them on a flipchart board in a circle concept map. I used a red marker for their initial words and phrases and a green one for the ones they came up with when we repeated the routine. In the centre I wrote the title of the painting and the name of the painter.
It was interesting to see the difference in the level of abstraction between the students in my classroom (age 11) and the teachers in this workshop. Is this because young students and teachers have different approaches to perception when looking at art? Approaches sometimes referred to as either top-down in the case of adults or bottom-up in the case of children. Perception means that we hypothesize about what we see. When adults perceive and interpret art, prior knowledge and experience may influence their reactions. In the bottom-up approach which is what children do, their perception starts right at what they have in front of them. They focus on surface features of the paintings.
Yet having a second look or being provided with some additional information will influence their attention towards top-down processing. For example, when we worked on this routine in class, most of their first responses were factual (trees, woman, heart, hole, chest, hold, darkness) and at the same time their initial reactions were drawn more towards negative impressions (bad emotion, lonely, crying, sad). That looks quite natural to me since the image of a woman sitting alone in a dark forest with an empty hole in the place of her chest where her heart is supposed to be, alludes to something bleak. When we had a second look, however, their next round of words and phrases was different. They had the chance to notice details like the glow in the woman’s face which was a reflection of her shiny heart. This led them to observe more carefully her expression which now seemed to them peaceful and they came to conclusions that this woman may be sensitive, smiling and proud of herself.
In the second part we had a look at some more routines I have used in class. This part was not that interactive as the first one. In the final third part we looked at some artworks and engaged in a free exchange of ideas on the routine they would use or which topic they could associate the artwork with. There were interesting ideas put forward. For example, when I showed them Then what or What after, a painting by Louay Kayyali, a Syrian visual artist, one of the participants offered the idea of using the Sentence, phrase, word routine. This is a routine that is targeted towards reading and capturing the essence of a text. It may be an oxymoron to use it with an image instead of text, but it is a splendid idea. What this participant did was to turn a receptive routine into a productive one. Asking students to cut down their expression to a single sentence, phrase or word, calls for them to focus their attention better to the meaning they want to communicate.
Another interesting moment was when we were looking at the street art piece Killing ourselves by a Spanish artist, Santiago Pejac and discussed what topic they could associate it with. I had thought of linking it with forest destruction, but the participants put forward a range of other ideas. They suggested immigration, disconnected society, and social media alienation. It was a happy coincidence that they could not see the title of the painting at that moment because that would limit their ideas.
At the end of the workshop I asked them to reflect on the following questions of the “I used to think…now I think…” routine:
These are answers to the two questions:
I feel really grateful that the people who attended this workshop participated with warmth and were eager to contribute their ideas and comments even though what I showed might not apply to every individual teaching context. Here is the link to the workshop materials.
This post originally appeared at
Re-blogged here with kind permission of the author Chrysa Papalazarou
Interview with Alan Maley
By Paola Verando & Myrian Casamassima
We are delighted to publish this inspiring interview with Alan Maley, who is well-known worldwide for his work in the ELT field and for his vast number of publications. Over decades, many of his books of resources, which became popular in Argentina, have provided teachers with practical tools and ideas for their classrooms.
Your vast work in the field of ELT shows a concern with facilitating the work that teachers have to do in the classroom through techniques, materials and resources of different kinds. What motivated you to start working along these lines?
I think it goes back to the five years I spent working for the British Council in Ghana in the 1960’s. I worked mainly with primary school teachers in rural areas. Schools were poorly resourced, teachers were relatively untrained, and the kids were often malnourished as well as poor. At that time there was a lot of work going on in mother-tongue education in UK to promote ‘Oracy’, especially an emphasis on story-telling, poetry and performance, and in the New Maths, promoting interesting ways of teaching basic mathematical and scientific concepts. We tried to draw on some of this work and adapt it to the difficult, resource-poor environment. This ignited a lifelong interest in literature and the visual and performing arts as elements in language teaching.
I was then lucky in my next posting, to Italy, to arrive at a time of experimentation and change. I worked closely with Donn Byrne and our Italian colleagues to found a teachers’ association (Lingua e Nuova DidatticaLEND) which promoted the new ideas coming out of the Communicative movement which was gathering pace at the time.
From there I went to Paris, where I stayed for over six years. Again this was a time favourable to change. I was fortunate to have had a fairly free hand and was able to run workshops all over the country and to bring innovative professionals in to present new and experimental ideas. This was the time of the so-called designer methods: The Silent Way, Suggestopoedia, Community Language Learning, Total Physical Response, Psychodrama and so on. It also coincided with the first flowering of ELT publishing. So I was again fortunate to get in on the ground level with books offering new ideas, especially in the field of drama, creativity and so on. I also had the great good fortune to work with one of the most creative individuals I have ever met – Alan Duff, with whom I coauthored many books at this time.
So I think the answer to your question is that I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, when new and challenging ideas were at the centre of English Language Teaching and of Applied Linguistics.
Do you see teachers now more as material-designers than they used to be before the post-method era?
I am not really qualified to answer that. There has certainly been plenty of promotion of the idea of materials design and development by teachers as well as by publishers. The work of MATSDA (Materials Development Association: https://www.matsda.org/ ), and the many books authored and edited by Brian Tomlinson have been at the forefront of this movement. But I tend to encounter the more activelyengaged part of the profession. The teachers I meet do indeed develop many of their own materials, and draw on the dazzling array of resources now available on-line. I suspect that the vast majority of teachers are quite content to use the prescribed textbooks and materials in their schools. This may sound like a negative judgement but I think it is largely true. And we should also acknowledge that teachers can exercise great creativity and ingenuity even when they have to use largely unsuitable materials. It is not a necessary quality of a good teacher that they design their own materials, though it may be a desirable one.
A recurrent theme in your work seems to be creativity. Have you had to redefine creativity as ELT continues to develop?
You are right in thinking that I believe creativity to be an essential quality in teachers. In fact, not just in teachers but in humans of all kinds. The human race has developed and survived largely through its creative energy. I also believe that an education restricted to concentration on the cognitive aspects is profoundly wrong-headed. In general, education systems spend far too much time on transferring inert information and far too little on preparing students for the evolving and unpredictable world they will have to live in.
I would not say that I have had to redefine creativity. (It is one of the most complex human phenomena to define anyway). But I have had to think about it a lot in connection with my own writing and practice. (See below question 6.)I am concerned about different aspects of creativity: how we can help our learners become more creative; how we as teachers can become more creative as individuals; how we can extend the range of creative inputs we use in our classrooms – particularly by incorporating more aesthetic elements, like music, art, literature and drama; how we can develop more creative processes into our teaching; and so on.
I believe that the need to develop more creative teachers has radical implications for teacher training. Currently, we tend to try to prepare teachers for predictable circumstances in the classroom. But classrooms are not predictable. We need to offer trainee (and in-service) teachers opportunities to handle the unpredictable elements in the process. Improvisation and spontaneity will be the keywords for this kind of training, and both flow from and back into creativity.
You have lived and worked in many parts of the world. What would you say ELT is evolving towards?
I am not happy with many of the trends in our profession. The three most important for me would include:
~ the lemming-like love affair with technology. We continue as a profession to be deluded by the ‘newtoy’ effect. There is a tendency to accept blindly any new piece of emerging technology. This is not to say that technology is somehow ‘wrong’ or even ‘evil’. But it is a plea that we should treat technology as just one of the many resources we have available. It is to learn to ask the right question: What technology is appropriate to solve this pedagogical problem? Currently there is a tendency to ask the wrong question: Here is a lovely new gadget. What shall I use it for?
~ the trend toward the academification of teacher education. In my view, the over-emphasis especially on the PhD as a qualification for teaching and a passport to promotion is misguided. We need to recognize the essential difference between research and teaching, and to reward teachers for being good teachers, rather than as researchers.
~ the commodification of ELT. By this I mean the stranglehold of testing, of curricular frameworks (like the CEF), the packaging of materials as total solutions, the elimination of teachers as active stakeholders…
These tendencies are enough to drive anyone to despair. But hope springs eternal.
You have written and published many stories. Which is your favourite?
I tend not to have favourites. But one I like especially is Forget to Remember, in the Cambridge Readers’ series. I like it because it deals with a major and growing problem, namely the spread of dementia and especially Alzheimer’s disease. I like it too because it is based on my own mother’s condition leading up to her death. Another one I like, though it is so far unpublished, is I am a Slave. This is the story of a modernday slave in London, and aims to raise consciousness of the eternal scourge of slavery.
What are your current projects?
I am just coming to the end (I hope!) of a period of intense work on four books, more or less simultaneously. These were (are) the following:
~ Alan Maley & Tamas Kiss. Creativity in Language Teaching: From inspiration to implementation. Palgrave Macmillan. We have tried to start from the theories of creativity in general and to move to ways they have been realized in education, applied linguistics, methodology and materials development. We then explored what the qualities of a creative teacher are and how to develop them. We have offered some frameworks for implementing these ideas, and reviewed research, as well as recommending future research directions.
~ Alan Maley & Nik Peachey (eds). Integrating Global Issues in the creative English language classroom: With reference to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The British Council.
~ Brian Tomlinson & Alan Maley. Authenticity. Cambridge Scholars. This is a selection of papers on various aspects of authenticity given at a MATSDA conference in Liverpool in 2016.
~ Alan Maley. 50 Creative activities for language teachers (provisional title) in the Cambridge University Press pocketbook series, edited by Scott Thornbury. This is just what it says on the label – a set of creative activities for teachers to draw on as appropriate to their needs.
It is highly unlikely that, aged 80 now, I shall ever write another book on ELT. But I have projects to publish both poetry, short stories and memoirs for as long as I have the energy and enthusiasm to do it.
We wish to thank you on behalf of Asociación Exalumnos del Profesorado en Lenguas Vivas “Juan Ramón Fernández” for this inspiring interview, and we hope to be able to read your new work soon.
This interview was originally published in Teachers’Centre AEXALEVI Forum, Issue XXVI / August 2017. Reposted here with permission from the Teachers’Centre AEXALEVI .
THE C Group Blog
This is our blog space led by our official blogger, Malu Sciamarelli.