What is Six Things?

THE SIX THINGS PROJECT IS NOW CLOSED. YOU ARE STILL WELCOME TO BROWSE AND COMMENT ON THE POSTS THOUGH.

Welcome! Six Things is a collection of miscellany from the world of English Language Teaching.

Check out the Recent Posts on the sidebar, or the menu a little further down for lists by category. Have fun, and please leave a comment if something interests you!

To find out more, click on Who’s Behind this Blog, or read the post Six Rules of this Blog.

Published in: on December 13, 2008 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Six adapted farewells

This is it folks, the final six! The following are famous last words which I have adapted (ripped off and changed more like😉 ) for the ELT blogosphere. Last task for you lot: can you identify the original sources?

1. Either those dogme-influenced blogs go, or I do.

2. It’s a far, far better thing I post than I have ever posted. It’s a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.

3. I am leaving Six Things now and I may be some time.

4. I have offended God and the blogosphere because my work did not reach the quality it should have.

5. Last posts are for fools who haven’t blogged enough.

6. Don’t cry for me, ELT.

GOODBYE! IT’S BEEN GREAT!

Published in: on December 23, 2010 at 10:47 am  Comments (27)  

Six subtitled films

In addition to writing materials and teaching, some of you may already be familiar with my subtitling work. Around a year or so ago I discovered Overstream, a great site which allows you to add subtitles to any video you want. Of course, there are good pedagogical uses you could put this to. You could also use this medium to create funny little videos about what goes on in English language teaching and the ELT blogosphere. Here then, are my six subtitled “masterpieces” as one kind critic called them.😉

Settle down with some colleagues, grab a cup of tea and enjoy! Curtain up…

You are probably wondering what the football uniforms have to do with Dogme…

1. ANY GIVEN DOGME

  • Based on: Any Given Sunday (German dubbed)
  • The context: This was my debut tribute to Scott Thornbury and Dogme methodology. Someone told me they used this video as an introduction to dogme in a workshop, which I loved! Here Al Pacino plays Thornbury, giving a dogme class to a group of football players.

Click here to see the film.

In 2010, a young DOS went to a conference on a battleship...

2. BATTLESHIP ELT

  • Based on: Yamoto (Japanese film)
  • The context: In early 2010, International House held its annual DOS conference on board HMS Belfast, a warship docked in London. This was just too good a chance to pass up for a bit of satire…

Click here to see the film.

I am Guardian of the Tweets...

3.THE SEVENTH TWEET

  • Based on: The Seventh Seal (Swedish film)
  • The context: Gavin Dudeney wrote a blogpost about how we should be careful what we tweet, retweet and so on. Couldn’t resist spoofing it…

Click here to see the film.

"Language is like ecosystem. Not McNuggets."

4.HARROTAR

  • Based on: Avatar (Russian dubbed trailer)
  • The context: IATEFL 2010 was notable for the large number of talks on technology. This trailer follows an undercover teacher working for the evil EduCorp. They want to destroy the gentle and pure Dogm’ee, who are resisting technology in education.

Click here to see the film.

Prepare for a humanistic sacrifice...

5.ASH CLOUD ELT

  • Based on: The Mist (Russian dubbed trailer)
  • The context: When the ash cloud hit Europe it threw everyone into turmoil and anxiety. Would we ever travel by air again? This trailer tells the story of a Saturday morning training session gone terribly wrong.

Click here to see the film.

"I think some crazy anti-coursebook bloggers put me here!"

6. BURIED ELT

  • Based on:  (Russian dubbed trailer)
  • The context: Ryan Reynolds plays… erm, me! Buried in a coffin underground and being forced to burn my books. But is this really an anti-coursebook plot or a cruel marketing trick from my publisher?

Click here to see the film.

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm  Comments (15)  
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Six favourite things I wrote for Onestopenglish

As many of you know, I got started really on my writing career with Onestopenglish – Macmillan’s resource site for teachers. As I went rummaging through my old folders the other day to prepare for this post I found lesson plans that went back as far as 2002! While recently I haven’t written very much for Onestop it was sobering to think that for the better part of a decade I was producing something almost every month for that site. I started way back in the very early days of Onestopenglish, before web 2.0 had really arrived in the world of English language teaching, and long before I had even heard of blogs or wikis or stuff like that. It feels like ages ago, but 8 years isn’t really that long. Anyway, when I heard that Onestopenglish was launching its (much needed) redesign (read about the details here) I thought I’d celebrate in my own special way.

The new Onestopenglish some web 2.0 elements to it, I’ve noticed, but really it’s always been about supplying the materials. It’s probably the biggest out there. When I suggested this post to the Onestop editor she said “Won’t it be hard to narrow it down to six?!” and she was right.  However, my own site dictates that six is the magic number so here goes: half a dozen of my favourite lessons that I wrote for Onestopenglish. Now, even though many of these are in the Staff Room section of Onestop (aka the paying section), I got permission to share them all with you here for nothing!

1 A Metaphor lesson

After reading Metaphors we live by and checking out the metaphor section of the Macmillan dictionary I got really interested in this area of vocabulary teaching. Winning is like hitting is one of a series of lessons that explore metaphor in the English language.

Download the lessonWinning is like hitting

2 A Live from London lesson

Back in early 2007 I sent a proposal for the Live from London – a series of podcasts of real people on the streets of London from around the world. They were all to answer the same question and then I wrote the material to go with it. This proved to be a big hit, and spawned several other Live from Series. Buoyed by the success of this, I convinced Macmillan to include a similar thread in my new coursebook Global, called Global Voices. But this is where it started.

Download the lesson – LivefromLondonXmas and click here to get the audio

3 American Vocabulary Lessons

For around two years I wrote an American English vocabulary lesson every single month on a theme. When I went back to look at some of these I’m still amazed I could do it, and get away with some edgier stuff. This lesson is W for War, it addresses common war and peace collocations, prepositions connected to war and includes a text I loved doing with students: Six American Wars. These lessons were a bit different in that the teaching notes were quite detailed as well, so be sure to download them too.

Download the lesson AmericanWars and the teaching notes War teachingnotes

4 Hot Topics Tips (with Scott Thornbury)

Emboldened by some of the stuff that Onestop was letting me do with published material (albeit on the web), I proposed a section of topical lessons called Hot Topics. About this time Scott Thornbury was finishing a book called How to Teach Speaking, and had written some stuff for Onestopenglish already. I suggested a teaming up to produce these topical lessons on much “hotter” topics than usual – drug use, disaster tourism, the West Bank Barrier were some of the things we addressed. My favourite thing though was a series of tips that we wrote on dealing with controversy and taboo topics in class. Unfortunately I could not get a pdf of this, but the link is here, and this piece was picked up and republished in the EL Gazette.

5 The Road Less Travelled (with Jo Budden)

The latest series that I wrote was commissioned a few years ago when the editor of Onestopenglish called me up and said “Fancy writing a soap opera podcast?” I thought, why not? But I couldn’t do it by myself and so enlisted the help of Joanna Budden, a great teacher and fellow author. Together we came up with the idea of the Road Less Travelled, which actually turned out quite well. Best of all was when we created a Facebook page for Katie London, the main character in the show. This was almost three years ago remember, before Facebook had really taken off. Funny anecdote: Katie’s love interest was originally called Ricardo and was from Costa Rica or Mexico. They couldn’t find a Latin American actor and at the last minute they got someone to come in but he was from Ghana! So Ricardo became Michael Mensa and after some hurried last minute rewrites we went ahead with it.

Click here for the Road Less travelled section.

6 Teen talk Column (with Guardian Weekly)

As a university student, I had often longed to get an article or a letter published in the Guardian Weekly, a newspaper I devoured whenever I got my hands on it. So I was almost bowled over when in 2008 I was invited to have my own column in the Learning English section… for a whole year! I had just finished some courses with particularly difficult Spanish teenagers, and Teen Talk was born. The attached pdf is the one I wrote on end-of-year activities, called How to be so last year (from 2008). Events have of course changed, but the activity types and tips still work!

Download the tips here – How to be so last year

There you have it. This, combined with my earlier post on activities I wrote for iTs magazines brings to a close the materials fire sale here at Six Things. Hope you enjoy it! We’re coming very shortly to the end of this blog… so watch this space!

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 7:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Six people Darren Elliott would like to meet (and the questions he’d ask them)

Well, I have to admit I have been a bit naughty recently and not updated this blog, and with so little time left! Anyway, as promised I do have some more guest posts. This is a really nice one from Darren Elliott, a teacher based in Japan and owner of the Lives of Teachers blog. Darren has had the chance to get a great many people in ELT in front of his video recorder and asking them questions (his latest great interview was with none other than Michael Swan). But not everyone! Here are six more people he’d like to meet. Darren, over to you…

This is not a guest list for a dinner party, and I have stretched the definition of ELT people to its outer boundries. But I think each of these people would have something to contribute to our knowledge of the profession. I’ve already been lucky enough to talk to some wonderful ELTers, in person or via skype, for my website / podcast at www.livesofteachers.com. Some of these might be a little trickier to get hold of, but you never know….

1. Rod Ellis

I don’t know what they are doing down there in New Zealand, but for such a small country it seems to produce a disproportionate number of gifted applied linguists. Like notable compatriots Paul Nation and Scott Thornbury, Professor Ellis has the ability and drive to communicate research to teachers at the chalkface. Just to throw the cat amongst the pigeons, I would like to ask him if all this SLA research has anything at all to do with what goes on in the classroom, and if he could tell me once and for all what I am supoosed to do in the classroom…..

2. Nozomu Sahashi

Mr. Sahashi was the founder and owner of NOVA, at one time the largest English conversation school (Eikaiwa) in Japan. Between the company’s formation in 1990, and bankruptcy and partial buyout in 2007, it employed thousands of teachers from North America, Australasia and Europe, many with limited experience or qualifications. Nova also had dealings with the unions over its drug-testing, health insurance, and non-fraternization policies. To be fair, many teachers in Japan got their starts with NOVA, and I have met many with fond memories of their time with the company. And although the firm finally faltered due to shaky student contract practices, hundreds of thousands of satisfied students passed through NOVA’s classrooms over the years. Sahashi-san is currently appealing against a three and a half year prison term handed down for embezzlement.

I would like to ask him how NOVA got so big, and how he sees the future for this model of national chain school. GEOS, another major chain, collapsed this year, and enrolments are down across the industry. Is this due to the return of Japanese insularity (last year there were only five Japanese at Harvard, compared to thirty-nine South Koreans)? Are students getting more savvy, more discerning, or using technology instead? Or is it just another symptom of the economic times we live in?

3.Lev Vygotsky

In the last couple of years, I think I have attended about five conference presentations in which Vygotsky and / or his Zone of Proximal Development haven’t been mentioned. That’s not to say his ideas are not valid, but it’s curious that he was the third most cited author in abstracts submitted for the 2008 Japan Association of Language Teachers National Conference*. Why such interest in a Russian psychologist, seventy years after his passing? Actually, a little more cross-pollination from other disciplines would be healthy for ELT in general. I’d like to ask him how he feels about his current popularity in English Language Teaching, along with other authors who have been imported from other disciplines and extensively referenced by ELTers, (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, for example).

4. Jean-Paul Nerriere

English is no longer something handed down by colonials to the locals, and as ever increasing numbers of non-native speakers use the language to ‘get things done’ as a lingua franca, the way it is taught has to change. M. Nerriere is not a linguist, nor a teacher, but a businessman, and he sees the world in those terms. It may not stand up to scrutiny, but his dialect ‘Globish’, based on an English lexicon of just 1500 words, is an intriguing concept. He represents all the language learners and users who have no interest in drama, dogme or dictation (the kind of stuff we teachers love) but just want to be understood as soon as possible. I would ask him what he thought I could do to help him and his peers achieve those aims.

5. Penny Ur

When I first started teaching, I thought her book ‘Grammar Practice Activities’ was the most incredible work of genius ever printed and bound. My teaching style and circumstances have changed somewhat over the years, but I still have this book, and I still look at it. I have a lot of questions for her, but most of all I’d like to say ‘Thank You!’

6. Ragsana Mammadova

I very much doubt I will ever visit Azerbaijan, and I am not too proud to say I know next to nothing about the country beyond it’s capital city and it’s approximate location on a world map. Ragsana Mammadova is the Executive Director of AzETA, IATEFL’s associate organisation in Azerbaijan, and I don’t have any particular questions for her – I’d just like to hear what she has to say about English teaching in her country. A look through the associates list in the back of the ‘Voices’ newsletter sparks my curiousity now in much the same way a world atlas did when I was a boy, and I am amazed at quite how huge and diverse our professional community is.

I could have thought of sixty or more…. so over to you, who have I missed?

* Stapleton, P. (2008) PAC7 at JALT2008: Untangling the submission process. The Language Teacher, p28 – 30, 32/09

Published in: on December 9, 2010 at 7:35 pm  Comments (7)  
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My six favourite activities from iT’s magazine

Page design for the Language Academy activity, by the amazing Derek Zinger of iT's. We played this game during a whole summer intensive course!

One of my first writing jobs, if not THE first writing job I had, was with iT’s for Teachers magazine. It was back in 2001 and I’ve told the story many times of how I got published with them (you can read it again here, or hear it here) and I’ve always been proud of the way they’ve edited and presenting any stuff I’ve written for them since. For a few years I was editing biTs, the beginner level version of the magazine.

iT’s for Teachers has now gone completely online, but they still produce amazing lesson ideas and material. Although of late I haven’t written as much as I wanted for them I wanted to share with you all six things I wrote over the past ten years with iT’s that I’m really happy with. I managed to twist their arms to give up the material for free, so please do yourself a favour and check out their site! A subscription is worth every penny!

Here, then, are my half dozen best from this part of my writing career. Click on the title of each one to download a free pdf of the activity. Teaching notes for all the activities are available at the end of the post.

1. Planet of the Apps From issue 115 of the magazine, 2010

In Planet of the Apps students find out about typical and rather strange apps for mobile phones, and design their own!

2. Googlegangers! From issue 106 of the magazine, 2007.

In googlegangers students find out what a doppleganger is, then go online to discover some facts about their own googleganger.

3. Mind Reader From issue 99 of the magazine 2006.

I loved making games for the magazine, and Mind reader was one that I played over and over again with a class of teens. It’s a word association and picture game, with lovely photos to cut out.

4. Lost also from issue 99 of the magazine 2006.

Lost was an ambitious role play activity, in which students each had a role card with a job, an objective and a key line. All based on the series Lost (remember how good it was back in 2006?), this was lots of fun. So for example you have “The Doctor. You want people to help you look for medicine. Your line: I’m a doctor, are you okay?” but I also threw in things like “The Priest. You want everyone to stay together. Your line: God will help us if we all pray.”

5. Language Academy Issue 84 of the magazine 2002

How I begged and pleaded to make this activity! Just listen to the pitch: Bored with Big Brother? Fed up with Survivors? Disgusted by Fantasy Island? Tired of the same old songs from the X factor? Are you looking for something newand original? Then welcome to… LANGUAGE ACADEMY!. Language Academy is the newest concept for a reality TV show. In Language Academy you are a contestant on an intensive English course at a very special school… The activity itself is a board game of the language academy school, with cafeteria, classroom, a confessional booth (yes! yes!), multimedia room etc. In each room there is a different “task” students have to do. We used it over a whole summer once. Oh, I’m too excited to go on, just download it for yourselves and see.

6. A Work_in_Progress from issue 81 of the magazine, 2001

Ten years ago! This is the lesson that started it all. It was the international year of the refugee and I wanted to do something connected to it. The result was a collection of now and then stories of refugees who had fled their countries and become well known in their field. I’m still proud of this lesson.

There you are. Six photocopiable lesson activity ideas on a variety of themes. Some of these may feel a bit outdated, but with some small tweaks I think you could make them relevant. One thing I love about iT’s for teachers magazine is how they can be consistently relevant with smart-looking and very workable materials. Nine pages of detailed teacher’s notes for all these activities, by the way, can be found here: Deluxe Teaching notes

Enjoy everyone! And if you already know of the magazine iT’s for teachers and have a favourite activity, post a comment below!

Oh, and by the way, if you’ve never heard of this magazine, you can find out all about it here. Don’t delay…

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 11:49 am  Comments (6)  
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