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Top 10 @OUPELTGlobal blog posts of 2012

Welcome, everyone, to 2013!

2012 was a great year for our blog, so we just wanted to share with you our top ten posts for the year. This isn’t a list of our favourites; this is a list of your favourites, by the number of views for each post.

So here they are:

10. 10 Commandments for motivating language learners: #9 Create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom by Tim Ward.

9. Teaching ‘screenagers’ – how the digital world is changing learners by Tim Falla.

8. Fun with flashcards by Weronika Salandyk.

7. Introducing the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary App by OUP.

6. How ESL and EFL classrooms differ by Kate Bell.

5. Six steps to writing transactional letters in the FCE Exam – Part 1 by Michael Duckworth.

4. Why do people follow fashion trends? by Rebecca Arnold.

3. 20 most commonly misspelt words in English by Kieron McGovern.

2. 10 Commandments for Motivating Language Learners by Tim Ward.

1. Introduction to project work – what is a project? by Tom Hutchinson.

Interestingly, four of our top ten most viewed posts were published in 2010. We like to attribute this to our continued commitment to bringing you the highest quality articles from some of the ELT industry’s finest educators.

And we intend to continue this trend in 2013.

Happy New Year, dear readers!

Oxford University Press ELT Global Blog Team


ELT Journal: Special Issue

ELT Journal: Special IssueKeith Morrow, who is retiring after 17 years as Editor of ELT Journal, reflects on the key developments in various areas of English language teaching during this time, as identified by contributors to the latest, special edition of the journal.

Have you had a birthday recently? Or a significant anniversary? Well, I have – not a birthday, but I have just received through the post the last issue of ELT Journal with my name on as editor. I’ve been editor for 17 years, so you can understand why I’m a bit misty-eyed!

For this issue we invited contributors to look back over my time in office and identify key developments in various areas of ELT during this period. We also asked them to peer into the future to see what the future might hold.

The result – though I say so myself – is a terrific overview of practice and principles in our field. But as I read and re-read the articles, I noticed two recurring themes. What do you think about them?

1. There is still a huge gap between theory and practice:

In his article, Alan Waters compares the 1996 and the 2009 versions of ‘Headway Intermediate’ and shows that the more recent version has “an increased emphasis on exposing students to and giving them opportunities to put the ‘target’ grammar into practice”. So what happened to all the work promoting the idea of learning language through using it, and even to task-based learning?

Amos Paran’s article is about developments in the teaching of the four skills. He identifies new insights into the nature of all four areas which could have profound pedagogical implications, but concludes that in the classroom little has changed. “We … have increasing evidence that what was a veritable teaching revolution in the 1970s, with a variety of communicative approaches to language teaching, has not in fact filtered down to the teaching profession to the extent that we like to think it has.”

2. Teacher education is not much help to teachers in the classroom:

Carol Griffiths surveyed teachers to find out what their professional worries were. She found that overwhelmingly they were to do with ‘classroom issues’ such as class management. As one of her respondents says ‘What happens in the classroom usually clashes with the theory’.

Amos Paran develops his theme by writing “…the picture that emerges is of teachers battling with the conflict between their beliefs, their training, the realities of the classroom, the demands of parents and learners, the requirements to demonstrate immediate attainment, and the increasing focus on exams.”

Does that sound familiar? And does current pre-service or in-service provision help teachers here?

The special issue is now available online to subscribers at http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org. Abstracts of articles are available free of charge, but even better is the fact that two really interesting pieces are available for free download.

One is an overview of the ‘Key Concepts in ELT’ features that appear regularly in the Journal; the other is a mammoth ‘Review of the reviews’ giving an overview of the book and materials reviews published since 1995.

If you want to find out what has been going on in the field over the past 17 years you can access them from http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org.

It’s time for me to stroll off into the sunset. I wish the new Editor of ELT Journal, Graham Hall, the very best of luck.

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Have your voice heard! Become a guest blogger for @oupeltglobal

Close up of hand writing on paperWe like to keep this blog as up-to-date and relevant to you, our readers, as possible. With that in mind, we’ve always strived to keep our list of guest bloggers fresh and varied, as well as give people a chance to share their opinions and knowledge.

Well, now we’d like you to share yours!

Whether you’re a seasoned blogging pro, a complete novice, or just want some more exposure for your own blog, we’re welcoming submissions from anyone for the chance to be featured here as a guest blogger. Plenty of people have already written for us and (we hope) they’ve all enjoyed the experience.

What’s in it for me?

There are lots of reasons why blogging for a big publisher like Oxford University Press is great for your personal and professional development.

  • The opportunity to reach out to a huge audience of teachers and language professionals around the world – our blog is read over 1,000 times a day; every article is shared with our Twitter audience of over 6,500 ELT professionals and our Facebook audience of over 24,000 teachers worldwide; and our ELT website receives approximately 1 million views per month.* How’s that for exposure and networking opportunities?!
  • It’s great publicity for both you as a professional and your website or blog. It could help you attract new readers to your own blog and connect with like-minded individuals around the world.
  • It’s valuable experience for your personal and professional development. Teachers and language professionals who take an active role in online professional development feel far more supported and enthused to take what they’ve learned into the classroom.
  • It’s not every day you get the chance to work with one of the world’s leading educational and academic publishers!
*Audience numbers accurate as of 29/05/12.

How can I get involved?

If you’ve written an article that you think might be suitable, or you have examples of previous work that you’d like to show us, or even if you just have an idea for an article, you can get in touch with us at elt.marketing.uk@oup.com with ‘Guest blogging’ in the subject line and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Are there any rules I must stick to?

There are no rules, as such, but here are a few guidelines as to what we’re looking for and what we think works best on an ELT blog:

  • Articles must be related to English language teaching or learning, education in general, technology in education, etc. If in doubt, take a look at our Categories page to see if your idea fits in with our themes.
  • Articles should be helpful and provide something of value to the readers. We won’t publish anything that is promotional or commercial in nature.
  • Posts should be about 300-600 words and have an interesting title.
  • If you want to include images in your post, please make sure that you either own the images, or you have permission to use them. Creative Commons search is a great website where you can find images that are licensed for commercial use.
  • Please check your spelling and grammar. Of course, we’ll work with you to improve anything that isn’t quite right, but the more accurate your post is to start with, the more likely it is that we’ll be able to use it.
  • If your article is chosen to be published on the blog, we’ll ask you to provide a short biography and a photo for our Guest Bloggers page.
  • Send your article to elt.marketing.uk@oup.com with ‘Guest blogging’ in the subject line to help us find and respond to your message as quickly as possible.

And that’s it! We can’t wait to hear all your fantastic suggestions and read your great blog articles.

Many thanks,

Oxford University Press ELT
Global Blog Team

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Read your way to better English with 30 new Oxford Bookworms apps available now on the App Store

Celebrate the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) with an Oxford Bookworms app and read your way to better English…

30 famous stories from the Oxford Bookworms series are now available as apps for the iPhone®/iPod touch®, and for the iPad® from the App Store.

Using the apps students can enjoy reading and listening to a wide range of famous stories including the exciting Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Hound of the Baskervilles. They can view colour illustrations and test their vocabulary using interactive quizzes on the app.

There really is no mystery to improving English. Research shows that reading many stories at, or just below your language level is one of the most effective ways to improve English. By making the popular stories available as apps, Oxford University Press is opening up reading to students who prefer using mobile devices to books. It doesn’t take a detective to work out that this will help encourage a wider range of students to continue reading outside of the classroom.

Oxford Bookworms apps offer six levels of Readers, from Stage 1 through to Stage 6 with stories to appeal to a range of interests. The thirty titles include some of the great Sherlock Holmes tales including, Sherlock Holmes and the Sport of Kings, and Sherlock Holmes and the Duke’s son, all-time best sellers such as Dracula and The Elephant Man, popular classics such as Alice in Wonderland and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and modern stories including Dead Man’s Island and Chemical Secret.

What’s your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

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What do teachers find most valuable about intensive refresher courses?

Tim Herdon is a Senior Teacher Trainer at Oxford University Press and runs the Oxford Teachers’ Academy. In this article, he explores some of the benefits of intensive teacher training refresher courses.

Every year in July a unique teacher training event takes place in Oxford. Approximately thirty-five non-native teachers come from all parts of Europe – and this year also Latin America and the Middle East – to spend three days discussing approaches to language teaching, trying out new ideas and activities and reflecting on their own practice.

The Oxford Teachers’ Academy (OTA) is an 18 hour refresher course for language teachers and is divided up into three 90-minute workshops per day for three days, interspersed with periods of reflection and feedback.

Normally these courses take place outside the UK, and the participating teachers tend to be mainly the same nationality, have similar educational backgrounds and in some cases all work in the same institution. The difference with the OTA held annually in Oxford is that teachers are all from different countries and have a wide range of different attitudes and experiences to bring to the course. Inevitably, these ingredients make for a highly stimulating course, and from the morning of day one the atmosphere is buzzing as teachers realise that despite the wonderful diversity of the group they experience very similar challenges, frustrations and rewards on a daily basis in the classroom.

What do teachers value most about OTA, (and I refer to OTA in general, regardless of whether the course is held in Oxford or elsewhere)? Well, before joining Oxford University Press (OUP) as a Senior Teacher Trainer with responsibility for OTA, I was a freelance teacher trainer and was lucky enough to lead several OTA courses in Brazil and one in Kazakhstan, as well as being involved in OTA trainer training in Russia – so I have the advantage of two different perspectives. I’ve read hundreds of feedback forms as part of my current role and the value of this kind of training is perceived in many different ways. For some it’s the course content; for others it’s the professionalism and resourcefulness of the trainers; and for others it’s the opportunity to take a step back and have a think about what good teaching and good learning means.

After last year’s Oxford OTA course, one of the participants, Erika Osváth, posted a wonderful article on this blog in which she pointed out the special benefits of a course that is face-to-face and, moreover, face-to-face in an attractive, inspiring location steeped in history and tradition. This sparked some interesting comments on the blog in which teachers discussed the merits of face-to-face versus online training. As OTA will be offered in an online version as well as face-to-face from 2013 onwards, I have a particular interest in this issue, and am always interested to hear what teachers think. Although from the OTA point of view this is still uncharted territory, my general feeling is that it’s not so much that one model is better than the other, but rather that each mode offers different advantages.

Erika’s enjoyment of all the educational discussions she got involved in is a good example of this. In face-to-face mode, discussions (both inside and outside the course) are hugely enlivened by the immediacy of direct personal contact, and online mode is weaker in this respect. However online discussions have the advantage of being more representative of the whole group: as a participant you have access to what all discussion contributors think about a given issue, whereas in face-to-face discussions between different groups spread out across the room, you are physically limited to the group you’re actually working with. So, different advantages for different modes.

Beyond that, however – and this aspect is rarely alluded to directly but is there nevertheless – I think there is great value attached to the fact that OTA courses are not assessed, but are certificated. Not being assessed means that participants have the freedom to experiment with new ideas without the pressure of knowing that their participation and output may be evaluated and therefore count towards assessment in some form. At the same time most teachers are also keen to have an official piece of paper to show for their time and efforts, and the OTA does lead to a certificate, based on participants being able to demonstrate written evidence of learning during the course. The certificate shows that the teacher has successfully participated in a course jointly designed by OUP and Oxford University, and whilst it is primarily a certificate of attendance, in some countries it counts towards the formal professional development requirements of teachers working in state education. So this ‘best of both worlds’ aspect gives the course the right balance of flexibility and concrete value.

Have you taken part recently in an OTA course, or a similar short refresher training course for teachers? If so, what was the most valuable aspect of the course for you? I’d be very interested to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic.

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