Tongue in Cheek 1

In the old days (pre-modular Delta) when Diploma candidates would be assigned topics/titles for their essays, we used to give trainees a couple of spoof essays and different colour highlighters for different criteria (e.g. misuse of terms,  using references appropriately, relevance of content etc.)   We had a lot of fun writing them (often copying from first draft submissions) and I hope they give you a smile as well. This first one was penned by George Vassilakis,  one of our Cambridge Delta tutors. 

by George Vassilakis

Pencil drawing by Marisa Constantinides 1998

Essay Title

There is a number of different techniques for the presentation of new language. Describe and exemplify the main presentation techniques and explain how and why you would use them.

The Essay

Presentation options include the text, the dialogue, the picture, the visual aids, the gesture, the diagram, the timeline, the drawing. the photograph, the audio recording, the video, the rule, the inductive and the deductive approach. Also we must mention the teacher himself and the learners themselves, especially in roleplay and simulation practice activities, as Penny Ur mentions in her book. Below I will write about each option separately and then I will give examples from my own teaching experiences.

Texts are very useful for presentation of written language, for example I may use the passage to explain the passive voice to my students, as it does not lend itself to drilling and similar oral techniques. Moreover, presentation through the text is recommended for the active versus passive voices by Jeremy Harmer and other theories.

On the other hand, for an oral structure like the present simple, the dialogue presentation method is obviously more suitable, as it might present the oral structure in a natural, authentic context of language use and not in the contrived exponents of inauthentic texts, as Widdowson says. It is very important, of course, to have a recording of the audio and to have good sound reproduction facilities for pronunciation, stress, intonation and phonological work.

The picture is a very important method of presentation, because it is motivating and it arouses the children’s curiosity. I would have used the pictures with junior classes to present, for example, this is and that is and it has prooved very effective in my experience as it involves personalisation, which is very important as it enhances motivation, therefore I use pictures a lot, especially with younger learners.

For older learners, visual aids are more relevant than pictures, as they tend to consider them childish. For this reason, I use visual aids for more mature structures, such as the reported speech, a form that causes difficulty even to the most advanced learners. We must bear in our mind that visuals are, moreover, advocated as a contextualisation technique by Dave Willis.

According to Gowers, gestures are a very versatile technique which I use for tenses. They help clarify the concept and function, providing they would not be ambiguous. Jeremy Harmer warns that we have to teach our learners the meanings of the gestures we use we cannot assume that they will know them, especially since there are gestures that might even be considered offensive in some cultures such as the open palm gesture in Greece, known as the mountza, so I use them sparingly and I beware of the ways I gesticulate.

Diagrams are particularly useful for the presentation of future tenses. I have used them to present the simple present with its near future meaning in the form of a timetable. I found it very effective, because it showed the uses of the future In a very clear context, and context is, as Hymes has pointed out, of paramount importance in teaching beginners and elementary students, though I have occasionally also used it with adults.

Timelines are considered by some the legacy of the direct method: they have been with us since the twenties, and as Susan Holden says, they are here to stay. I first saw them in a video class with Mary Spratt the teacher and she was really good. They are not only useful for tenses and times, but also for adverbs such as already and while and, of course, for the passive voice and the modals.

Drawings are used with young learners to involve the kinaesthetic centres of their brain, because otherwise they become sleepy, as Puchta prooved. So I often ask them to draw to relax a little during a long and tiring presentation. I always take care to give them a purpose for drawing, to make the activity more communicative, and I then display their drawings up the wall, to provide an audience, again for communicative, but also for motivational, purposes.

Photographs are a necessary part of our modern life and there is as a result no reason why they should not be used in the classroom as well. I mainly use photographs from google, which show a person before and after a slimming programme to teach comparative form of adjectives and adverbs. Of course, I opt for another method whenever I have had overweight children in the class, that is most times, as in this country mothers rarely look after the dietary aspect of their issue’s nutrition, as they suffer from the so called German Occupation syndrome. But of course, In other cultures and situations, photographs would be entirely appropriate: one must not generalise from isolated instances of experience, as the philosopher Popper says in his famous Conjectures and Refutations!

Modern technology has also offered a lot of help to the teacher of English: who can imagine, to give but a simple example, a language classroom without a CD player? Would it be an exaggeration to say that no presentation can happen without the recorded dialogue? Don’t even the titles of popular methodological books, notably Teaching Oral English by Donald Bird, suggest this? Suffice it to say that the CD player is the single, most indispensable tool available to the language teacher.

Not to mention the even more contemporary invention of the video and youtube, which, alas, I have not had access to in my school, because the computers are kept locked, but still, I would have used it for adjectives and adverbs, and especially the superlative degree, with videos of tv commercials. It is well known and widely accepted that our learners like commercials, so they would be highly motivated and in addition, it might have made our lessons more realistic, which is a basic tenet of the communicative and humanistic methodology.

These technological advances should not lead us to believe that old, tried and tested techniques such as the rule are useless. After all, most of us non-native teachers learned English through the rules, and we evidently learned them well. That’s why I invariably use the rule to begin my presentation, as it is the clearest and most economical way of explaining the forms, but also the concepts. Particularly when one is dealing with such aspects of grammar that are notoriously difficult to teach as the conditionals.

The inductive method, where the students induce the examples, is extremely useful as well. But it Is perhaps more appropriate for revision and remedial lessons, while first presentations had better be done deductively (i. e. the students deduce the rules), because as I said before rules are very useful, provided, of course, that they are explicit enough for all of our students to understand, so they might occasionally be in the learner’s native tongues, which, however, we must remember, should be used sparingly and, above all, judiciously!

The teacher himself is an important presentation technique. I remember, following John Haycraft, who suggests the mime stories, I used myself to teach the present simple. I did not use mimes, of course, as I was not teaching little children, but I explained and the students repeated all of my daily routines, which are the basic meaning of the simple present according to Geoffrey, and so they learned this tense intensively.

Sometimes we might even want to exploit the learners for our presentation. I remember the last time that I taught the modal verb should with the perfect infinitive of the main verb to express rebuke, I drew on the learners themselves and the mistakes in their homeworks and I presented it in the example “you put X but you should have put Y”. Thus I killed two birds with one stone: the students not only did they understand the new structure through personalistion but they also corrected their mistakes in other structures as well.

Finally, last but not least, comes the roleplay. Because students like to play roles and their extrinsic (see Gardner and Gardner) motivation increases, I use roleplays a lot, especially with everyday conversations for beginners and intermediate learners. They read the rolecards dramatically and then the class claps the best performance. It must be noticed, however, that not all students like the theatre, because as a very able girl once told me “we are learners, not actors” for this reason we must be careful not to have these roleplays very often and even when we have them to not insist too much.

In conclusion we can say, as Thornbury opines, that no presentation method or option stands out as the best for all situations. Depending on the age and level of the learners and the technology available, we should always choose the best option we can!



Grammar Practice Activities by Penny Ur

The Practice of ELT by Harmer, Jeremy

Teaching English as Communication by Widdowson

Teaching Practice Handbook by Gowers

Thornbury, How to teach Grammar

Conjectures and Refutations by Carl Popper

Teaching Grammar by Jim Scriveneers

Teaching Oral English, D Bird

Grammar book by Geoffrey, Leech

Introduction to teaching English by Haycraft

article by D Willis

P is for Politeness

The post which follows is an article which appeared in the IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group Newsletter in 2015 

N is for New Information

N is for New Information

Screenshot of front pages of papers


New information is information that is assumed by the speaker not

  • to be known to or assumed by the addressee, or
  • previously established in the discourse.


New information typically

  • is placed late in the sentence, and
  • has a high amount of stress placed on the words representing it.

Examples (English)

In the following exchange, the stressed words are new information:

A: Do you know where my SHOES are?
B: I put them in the CLOSET.


As you can see, the new information becomes OLD information in the second utterance and the NEW information in the response provides additional facts or responds to the new information in the previous utterance.

New information and pronunciation

This high stress placement on the new information is usually called nuclear or tonic stress and marks information which is new or contrasted with information presented in a previous utterance or, simply, adds to or builds on that information.

Lack of such stress placement makes utterances difficult to follow a speaker (whether native or non native) and is a typical problem is foreign learner (and teacher) talk.

In terms of a hypothetical acquisition order of phonological features along the cline between unintelligible and with native like phonological competencies, stress placement seems to be a late acquisition item along with segmentation and catenation.

Thinking Task

Here is the transcript from a clip from the  “Yes, Prime Minister” TV series

It’s a series of aphorisms, which the PM delivers about British newspapers. Read through them and try to predict which parts of each utterance will be delivered with low stress (given information at that particular stage in the discourse) and which particular words will receive high/tonic/nunclear stress (New Information) 


Prime Minister:

“The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country,

the Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country.

the Times is read by people who actually do run the country.

the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.

The Financial Times is read by people who own the country, 

the Morning Star is ready by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, 

and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”

Second speaker:

“Well, Prime Minister, and what about the people who read the Sun?”


“The Sun readers don’t care who runs the country as long as she’s got big t***.”


Now Scroll down please to listen to how these lines were actually delivered – listen from 1:04

















 Teaching the feature

I usually do this as a whole lesson on newspapers, part of which has to do with genre and features of different newspaper styles.

If you would like to use this in a lesson you might like to consider this procedure:

Lesson Outline

  1. Lead in with a brief chat about newspapers in the students’ native language. How many are there and what kind are they; what/who do they represent.  What paper do they read, if at all.
  2. Give them a handout with the aphorisms above but with the names of papers blanked out – depending on the local culture you might wish to omit the last one with the asterisked bits.
  3. Ss read and decide which of their local papers fit the descriptions – they can insert the names and practice reading them aloud
  4. Ask them to decide which word(s) in each sentence receive(s) the highest, most prominent stress
  5. Ask them to practice reading the sentences aloud in pairs or groups
  6. Then give them names of English newspapers and they can decide where they fit in
  7. Get them to listen to the video and fill in the names first then listen and mark the stress – check if they were right
  8. Last, ask them to read out their views of their own local papers and assign correct stress.

If you like, they can then add or change some of the aphorisms as they please.

This can be followed by more focused work on the lexical, grammatical and textual features of these papers.



Books on Discourse Analysis

Brown, G., & Yule, G., 1983, Discourse Analysis, Cambridge University Press

Johnstone, B., 2003, Discourse Analysis, Blackwell

McCarthy, M. 1991, Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers, Cambridge University Press

Partridge, B., 2006, Discourse Analysis – an Introduction,  Continuum International

Thornbury, S., 2005, Beyond the Sentence, Macmillan Education


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C is for Coherence

Is she coherent? 

Watch this much discussed video of a young beauty pageant contestant answering a question posed by the judges.

 Thinking Tasks

1. Is Miss South Carolina coherent or not?  

2. Read this text and say if it is coherent. Try to answer the following questions:

  1. Where was published?
  2. Who authored it?
  3. What was the author’s purpose for writing it?

These children can be said to have two three or more mother tongues neither language is foreign to that child even if one language is a foreign language for the vast majority of people in the childs birth country. On average in Europe at the start of foreign language teaching learners have lessons for three to four hours a week. The Welsh language is also compulsory up to the age of 16 although a formal qualification is optional..In some countries learners have lessons taken entirely in a foreign language for example more than half of European countries with a minority regional language community use partial immersion to teach both the minority and the state language..In 1995 the s White Paper on Education and Training emphasized the importance of schoolchildren learning at least two foreign languages before upper secondary education.

Scroll down to the end of the post view the answer.


Review the following definitions and choose the best one (or the one you understand best):

1/ Coherence (linguistics)

Coherence in linguistics is what makes a text semantically meaningful.It is especially dealt with in text linguistics. Coherence is achieved through syntactical features such as the use of deicticanaphoric and cataphoric elements or a logical tense structure, as well as presuppositions and implications connected to general world knowledge. The purely linguistic elements that make a text coherent are subsumed under the term cohesion.

Robert De Beaugrande and Wolfgang U. Dressler define coherence as a “continuity of senses” and “the mutual access and relevance within a configuration of concepts and relations” . Thereby a textual world is created that does not have to comply to the real world. But within this textual world the arguments also have to be connected logically so that the reader/hearer can produce coherence.

– from Wikipedia reproduced here 

2/ Here is another definition from the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Applied Linguistics


Coherence is the quality of meaning unity and purpose perceived in discourse. It is not a property of the linguistic forms in the text and their denotations (though these will contribute to it), but of these cover forms and meanings interpreted by a receiver through knowledge and reasoning. As such, coherence is not an absolute quality of a text, but always relative to a particular receiver and context. A description of coherence is usually concerned with the links inferred between sentences or

utterances. It is often contrasted with COHESION, which is the linguistic realization of such links (Halliday and Hasan, 1976).

3/ A definition from the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics 

coherence n coherent adj

the relationships which link the meanings of UTTERANCES in a DISCOURSE or of the sentences in a text. These links may be based on the speakers’ shared knowledge. For example:

A:Could you give me a lift home?

B: Sorry, I’m visiting my sister.

There is no grammatical or lexical link between A’s question and B’s reply (see COHESION) but the exchange has coherence because both A and B know that B’s sister lives in the opposite direction to A’s home. In written texts coherence refers to the way a text makes sense to the readers through the organization of its content, and the relevance and clarity of its concepts and ideas. Generally a PARAGRAPH has coherence if it is a series of sentences that develop a main idea (i.e. with a TOPIC SENTENCE and supporting sentences which relate to it).

Ideas for Teaching Coherence

As definition 3 points out coherence in conversational exchanges includes less explicit links but written texts do although coherence refers more to the way ideas are related to one another

Cohesion is generally easier to teach as it involves lexical and grammatical links but coherence tends to be more difficult and it would probably involve quite a lot of recognition and analysis work on the information structuring of the genre you are training your learners to produce.

Activities which might encourage recognition and awareness raising – a few ideas:

  • ordering paragraphs into texts or sentences into paragraphs
  • inserting sentences from a list of relevant/irrelevant ones into a completed or incomplete text
  • completing a text where first – last sentence or first – last paragraph are given
  • discussing how ideas in texts are connected to each other – e..g. comparison & contrast ; cause & effect
  • appreciating how well written pieces are put together and analysing how the writer has achieved this effect.

Here is a good post from OnestopEnglish on just this topic with a great paragraph at the end by Scott Thornbury.

Find a great collection of lesson plans here on a variety of aspects of coherent transitions in writing; although intended for K-12 students, ELT teachers can find a great number of ideas which can be easily adapted to the ELT classroom.

Please share your own ideas or links in a comment; if you have written a relevant blog post or found a great link, I hope you will!


Answers to thinking tasks 

1. Not! (with all sympathy for this young contestant  who blanked out in front of the cameras..There are follow-up videos where she explains all,  in case you might want to use this in a lesson)

2. The text above was taken from a spam message on my blog – in response to a post about large school chains – franchises in Greece and elsewhere. It is not coherent because:

  1. It is an irrelevant response to the topic of the blog post. Grice’s maxim of Relevance is flouted.
  2. There is no internal coherence in the paragraph; although the sentences are connected by topic,  it is not obvious how the ideas in the sentences are connected to one another .
  3. The text, is a random collection of sentences, probably copied from various education sites and blogs that have to do with foreign language teaching – a stray and random collection. This is what blog spammers do: to get their sites listed, they put together paragraphs from various pages on the web and post, in the hope bloggers will not notice.

Interestingly, the mind of the reader who reads this text, attempts to find/discover some coherence in this text, simply because it has the shape and layout of a paragraph; hence we expect it to be coherent.

IATEFL 2015 | Marisa Constantinides: Evernote for teacher observation and teacher development | Workshop summary

A great summary of a presentation I did at IATEFL in 2015 – using new tools for teacher observation which also lead to self-observation and reflection.

Here are my original presentation slides on Slidebean – I am afraid that on the day of my second presentation at IATEFL (I did this one twice, once for the LT SIG and once for the main conference), slibean betrayed me and was completely down – so Olya’s summary is without my slides but with the tool itself

Read on

Olya Sergeeva's ELT blog

Abstract: A tutor, colleague or supervisor with a notepad taking field notes during a lesson is a common sight on teacher development courses. In this talk, I want to show how the use of Evernote can make teacher observations more effective and create an impact that can last longer, leading teachers in training to further reflection and development. Twitter: @marisa_c; slides will are available on Marisa Constatinides’s slidebean. Video is the most reliable way to capture a lesson. There’s technology allowing to easily videotape the class, e.g. Swivel – the teacher is wearing a device, which allows the camera to follow them. But that’s very expensive. What are some cheap alternatives? A lot of observers take detailed notes of everything that happens, what the students and teachers are doing and saying – essentially, becoming a ‘human video’. Typical notes could have three parts: what happened / what you did well / what you…

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G is for Genre



Genre (play /ˈʒɑːnrə/ or /ˈɑːnrə/; from French, genre French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ʁ], “kind” or “sort”, from Latin: genus (stem gener-), Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions.

from Wikipedia; also follow this Wikipedia link for a list of literary genres

Thinking Task

Watch this video of Peter Sellers and think about the features of the genre he is delivering.

How exactly has he achieved his intended effect?




Peter Sellers delivers the words of the famous Beatles song “A Hard Day’s Night” in the same manner that a Shakesperean actor would deliver the monologue from Richard III – he is not only dressed and surrounded by the props which we associate with William Shakespeare’s Richard III but his spoken style of delivery imitates the spoken features of this particular theatrical genre.

The effect is hilarious.

Is he insinuating that the manner of delivery may sometimes assign some kind of aura to the words that they might otherwise not have?

I don’t know. But what he (or his director) has created is a wonderful starter for discussions on the notion of genre.

Peter Sellers is flouting Grice’s conversational maxim of manner in the deliberate way that artists do in order to generate thought or to create a comical effect.

Imagine if the Beatles set Richard II’s monologue into music similar to a Hard Day’s night. Would we take the words as seriously then, I wonder.





Some Books on Discourse Analysis


Upcoming webinars for educators | September – December 2016

For our Delta readers, a list of upcoming webinars, courtesy of Twitter friend Adi Rajan @adi_rajan


Have you attended any interesting webinars lately? I’ve been missing all the good stuff and turning up for the crap ones because let’s face it, it’s not all insights and epiphanies. Here are some webinars to keep you (hopefully) engaged till the end of the year. An * marks webinars that require registration.


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From Manager to Leader 


Reblogged from the iTDi blog 

by Bita Rezaei

Ask anyone and they will tell you there is a difference between being a manager and a leader but where the difference lies doesn’t seem to get beyond the quote “managers drive, leaders lead.”  History is filled with wisdom and case studies on the qualities of good leaders and effective leadership. Over the past few years there have been so many books, articles and blog posts published around the “how to’s” of becoming a good leader,  but as tempting as it may seem to call yourself one, it is not that easy.

It is said that management is career whereas leadership is a choice – a calling. Leaders get their power and authority not from their positions but from the trust people put in them. While at times you can tell a manager from miles away by a fair judgment of the dress code, way of speaking and mannerism, being a leader calls for another set of characteristics. To me, it’s about having that intangible charismatic component that some people have and some just don’t.


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