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Why enter the Headway Scholarship competition?

There’s only one month left to submit your Headway Scholarship entry and have the chance to win a 2-week all-inclusive teacher training course at Oxford University.

But why should you enter? We asked some of last year’s winners to share their top 7 reasons why you should apply for the Headway Scholarship.

The top 7 reasons why you should apply for the Headway Scholarship:

Gloria-NewGloria Rossa

  1. Professional development and personal growth
  2. Experiencing life in an English-speaking country
  3. Studying in a renowned Oxford University college, with top yet humble tutors
  4. Increasing self-esteem and feeling a sense of accomplishment
  5. Meeting teachers from different countries and sharing teaching experiences with them
  6. Meeting one of the inspiring Headway authors, Liz Soars, and sharing teaching anecdotes with her
  7. Practising English in an academic environment and getting used to a variety of accents

Gloria also writes her own blog, My English World, in which she discusses her Headway experience in more detail. A great resource for anyone considering applying for the Scholarship!

Marianne ChavarriaMarianne Chavarria

  1. First of all, Oxford is a magical place, full of ancient buildings and stunning colleges, with colorful gardens and parks that invite you to relax and enjoy nature.
  2. Second, having the opportunity to meet teachers from all over the world, developing friendship ties, partnership and creating a great chance for learning from everyone’s culture.
  3. Third, improving my professional development by learning new techniques and tools to apply in my teaching practice.
  4. Fourth, developing my language skills by practicing everyday with people with different accents and backgrounds.
  5. Fifth, having the reliability that all members from OUP, The Department for Continuing Education from Oxford University and IP Teachers’ Team will do a great job in organizing a pleasant journey, an optimal stay and a worthy experience for teachers.
  6. Sixth, the workshops are given by professional teacher trainers that are very well prepared, full of expertise and willing to share their knowledge and promote our professional growth.
  7. Last but not least; learning to trust a little bit more in myself, in the fact that I am capable to participate and win in this kind of competitions, and be a proud ambassador for two weeks for my country.

Magya DygalaMagya Dygala

Magda couldn’t pick just 7 reaons, so here are her 8 top reasons!
As it comes to these 7 reasons, I guess I could enumerate at least 20 of them but I will try to make it shorter… Oxford was, is and always will be a place where my heart belongs. I will quote here Aung San Suu Kyi who described Oxford in such a beautiful way:
‘The past is always there, it never goes away,
but you can select what is best from the past
to help you go forward to the future…’

  1. Having a chance to meet the incredible and warm person, the author of Headway – Liz Soars
  2. Getting professional experience and knowledge from amazing Oxford tutors.
  3. A chance of a lifetime – meeting new people from all over the world and sharing teaching experience with them.
  4. Making friends for life
  5. Having a chance to experience being ‘out of the box’ (out of your country) in an English speaking country.
  6. Having a pleasure to have classes and dine at 700 year old Exeter College.
  7. Experience living in a place where past meet present, and every building has its own history.
  8. Last but not least, make your DREAMS come true and believe in yourself more

IrinaIrina I. Krestianinova

Well, it’s been twice Headway was a turning point in my both professional and personal life.

The first time was when I started teaching with it twenty years ago. That is where the FIRST reason why I applied for the Headway scholarship 2014 comes from. My essay was meant to be a thank-you to Liz and John Soars and the Headway team. I mean people who do the extraordinary work should know there is at least one person who highly appreciates the significance of this work. I mean it!

The second turning point was a two-week course at Exeter College, Oxford in Aug 2014. And this is the SECOND, as well as the THIRD, the FOURTH, the … reason why I would strongly recommend taking part in the competition.

  1. Just at the moment you arrive in Oxford and open the heavy old oak door to Exeter College, you feel you are in the right place and at the right time;
  2. You become a part of the community, the fellowship of 60 people from 33 countries from all over the world. People who come from absolutely different social, political, religious, and cultural backgrounds, but who, in just two weeks, manage to create their own tiny world full of patience, tolerance, and love. People who you might not see ever again, but who have come into your life and will stay forever;
  3. Every day in the course, though thoroughly planned and scheduled, is absolutely unpredictable. Every day with a lecture, workshops, social activities, free time, and whatever, is an amazement, even for a person who is hardly prone to be amazed;
  4. Great, inspiring and motivating lecturers, course  tutors and students who shape you in some way. You try to pick up something from everybody. You then introduce it into your classroom back home and realize that both you and your students really love your new shape;
  5. taking part in the competition for the Headway scholarship, no matter if you win or not, is sure to give you the greatest sense of achievement: you’ve managed to come out of your comfort zone to find out the new surrounding is much more comfortable;
  6. and in the end you feel you’ve lived another life, no way better or worse than your usual one, but, anyway, different. You’ve been an Oxford student for at least two weeks and in that way you’ve become at least some tiny part of its tremendous history.

Do you still need convincing? Liz Soars, author of Headway, explains why she and John set up the Headway Scholarship 11 years ago:

Start your entry today by visiting our Headway Scholarship competition page! Deadline: 8th March 2015.

The Headway Scholarship is made possible through the generosity of John and Liz Soars.


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Helping students to use good grammar when they speak

Word grammar spelt in scrabble lettersHow can we help students speak and learn grammar at the same time? Susan Earle-Carlin, author of Q: Skills for Success Listening and Speaking 5, provides tips for helping students use good grammar in their speaking.

Speaking, like writing, requires good grammar in order to communicate a message clearly. I sometimes use an analogy with my students to compare readers and listeners with passengers on a tour bus. Too many grammar mistakes, like too many bumps and detours in the road, will turn their attention away from what’s important towards how uncomfortable they feel and whether they will ever reach the end. So the question is, how can we help students use good grammar while not inhibiting them while they are speaking?

Control the grammar output

  • Make activities appropriate for the grammar level of the students. Ask beginners to describe the food in their home country, but have advanced students compare their class in English with one in another field.
  • Direct the students to target a certain grammar point in speaking. For example, ask students to talk about the objects in the classroom (singular/plural nouns and determiners), explain what is going on in their school at the moment (present progressive), or describe a scene using three adjectives and three adverbs (word form). Review the grammar first to optimize success and follow-up with some global comments on that grammar point, not singling out any particular student.

Provide practice

  • Give students lots of opportunities to speak in small groups without teacher intervention. However, remind listeners to ask questions if they don’t understand something the speaker says.
  • Allow students to practice a presentation with peers to help reduce the stress most ELLs have about speaking in front of the class. Less nervousness usually results in better grammar.
  • Encourage students to record and listen to their presentations for practice. Tell them to write down a sentence they have grammar questions on and give them the opportunity to ask you or the class for advice before presentation day.

Provide feedback

  • Interrupting students who are speaking to provide feedback is too negative. Instead, record their small group discussions or presentations. Listen to the recordings in conferences with individual students to discuss problems and suggest ways to improve grammar.
  • If students can have access to the recordings, assign a transcript for homework and tell students to circle and correct their grammar errors. Check them over and make suggestions on grammar areas to review.


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Announcing the 2014 Headway Scholarship

Exeter CollegeWhen John and I started writing Headway we had certain beliefs about ELT borne out of our experience as teachers and teacher trainers. And, like many teachers, we weren’t always entirely happy with the courses we used. However, we decided to stop whinging and have a go at creating a course of our own. We never imagined that Headway would become the chosen course of countless ELT classes round the world. We were flattered that so many teachers seemed to find our approach complemented and assisted their teaching.

Over the years we have hugely valued the many trips we’ve made to schools round the world, meeting up with teachers and students, and learning of their experiences and needs. Their stories – your stories – have influenced our writing. Nothing has given John and me greater satisfaction than teachers telling us how they felt that their students have made real progress using Headway.

As Headway became increasingly successful, we wanted to give something back to the ELT community to show our appreciation of all those students and teachers who were our inspiration and motivation. We decided to create the Headway Scholarship, sponsoring two students and two teachers from a country where Headway is widely used, to come to study in Oxford for a fortnight in the summer. We wanted to select students and teachers for whom such an opportunity wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

The first year of the Headway Scholarship was 2004, and the first country selected was Hungary – a country which has shown huge enthusiasm for Headway from the start. Over the following years, John and I discussed the country selection with the Headway team at OUP. Other countries in Europe were selected, then we extended the opportunity to the Middle East, Latin America, and most recently Ukraine and Turkey. The selection process has varied country to country, but each Headway Scholar has been a worthy recipient, having demonstrated their commitment – often via a competition – to English Language Teaching.

Liz and John Soars with four Headway Scholars at Exeter College in 2010

Liz and John Soars with four Headway Scholars at Exeter College in 2010

Although in the early years the Headway Scholarship was awarded to both students and teachers, it became apparent that the people who most benefited were the teachers. They attended the two-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar, held at Exeter College, Oxford. These teachers have all been very enthusiastic about this course. Whenever we were able to, John and I met up with them. Many of them have written to tell us about what had been for them an opportunity of a lifetime, how much they’d developed as teachers, how they valued exchanging ideas with so many other ELT professionals from round the world, and how they would pass on what they’d learned to the wider ELT community back home. This is why we decided to dedicate the Headway Scholarship to four teachers.

And now there is an exciting new development to tell you about! The country selection has always been hard, and we hate to deprive any teacher of this opportunity just because of where they live. So to mark ten years since the first Headway Scholarship, this year we are making the Scholarship global! Wherever you are in the world, as a Headway teacher, you will be eligible to enter the Headway Scholarship competition to win a place at the 2014 Summer Seminar in Oxford.

The Headway Scholarship is very important for me, as it was for John, and I’m delighted it’s expanding in scope. As you’ll see from the competition entry information, it’s all about ‘Making a difference’, which is exactly what John and I set out to do all those years ago when we started writing Headway.

Good luck to everyone!
Warm wishes,

Liz Soars

You can find the application form and terms and conditions to enter the competition on the Headway Fourth Edition page.

14 March 2014 UPDATE: Please note, we are no longer accepting applications for the Headway Scholarship. We have posted the shortlist of applicants on the Headway Fourth Edition page.


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Catherine Walter on the #ELTJ Debate at #IATEFL Liverpool

Catherine WalterThe ELT Journal debate at IATEFL Liverpool was a lively and well-attended affair. Thanks to the British Council, you can see the whole event online on the IATEFL Liverpool website. Here, Catherine Walter, who opposed the motion, gives her round up of the debate.

Scott Thornbury claimed that Published course materials don’t reflect the lives or needs of learners. Surprisingly, he did not repeat what he’s been saying for years in his Dogme / Teaching Unplugged strand – that teachers should not bother with course materials. Instead, he started from the weaker premise that course materials need improvement. Scott began by showing images of early twentieth-century books – hardly germane to the discussion, as if the nutritional value of deep-fried Mars Bars gave a picture of the contemporary diet. He maintained that there is a prevalence of employed, white, heterosexual male middle class characters in current materials. This doesn’t correspond to the regular exercises I do with students to count and classify representations in materials, where some materials do very well indeed. Scott also suggested that vocabulary syllabuses are not based on frequency, and that spoken grammar is not well represented. I would argue with both these points.

My view:

There are high quality materials available today from international and national publishers. Most learners globally learn from materials in countries where English is not a dominant language, in large classes that meet two or three times a week, where access to other materials or the internet may not be good. The book is still a valuable technology here; and it is also often doorway to different possible combinations of supplementary materials and activities, in whatever media the teachers and learners can access.

What about reflecting the lives of learners?

When I was learning a foreign language as an adolescent in a semi-rural working-class industrial town, I did not want language teaching materials to reflect my life – I wanted them to take me out of it, to show me other lives and other ways of living. Further, if materials are too firmly anchored in the here and now of the learner, how will that prepare them for the future?  Of course, there are some ways in which course materials should and do reflect learners’ lives – for example, by being based on knowledge about how people learn at different ages, or by comparing learners’ lives to those in other places.

What about learners’ needs? 

  • Learners need to learn the language, not just those bits of the language that might happen to emerge in a lesson. Teams of course developers think very carefully about the range of language learners need, and make sure this range is covered.  Individual teachers don’t have the time or resources for this.
  • Learners need classroom time to be used effectively, because typically there isn’t much of that time.  Course materials offer clear, efficient ways of teaching language – and Norris and Ortega’s (2000) and Spada and Tomita’s (2010) analyses show that this works, and results in lasting acquisition.
  • Learners need materials that will help them with the next English language situation they will meet. Course materials provide structures and contexts for out-of-classroom situations.
  • Learners need access to extra resources that can be tailored to their needs. Modern courses offer pathways and activities to suit different learners.
  • Learners need clear goals and records of progress, and they value materials because they give these.
  • Learners need teachers who are well supported: course materials scaffold teachers, giving them a base from which to replace, reinvent, innovate and fine-tune materials for learners.
  • Learners need teachers who have access to professional development activities. Few teachers around the world can come to an IATEFL conference. Teachers in the majority 3-hour-a-week context, and not only there, regularly report on how they benefit from the teacher’s materials in their course books and in their development as professionals.

There is an unprecedented choice of materials available today; teachers don’t need to feed their students deep-fried Mars Bars. Materials can give teachers something to depend on, and something to kick against; they can give teachers frameworks and ingredients to depend on and to improvise from. How teachers nourish their students’ learning will always stem from the teachers’ creativity and their awareness of learners’ needs and lives.

You can also read Scott Thornbury’s take on the ELT Journal Debate in his post “R is for Representation” and watch the recorded debate online. Which of the speakers would have won your vote?

Catherine Walter writes English language teaching materials and lectures in applied linguistics at the University of Oxford (UK). She is the convenor of the low-residency Postgraduate Diploma / MSc in Teaching English Language in University Settings (on which there are still a few places available for the coming academic year!).

References

Norris, J. M. and L. Ortega.  2000.  Effectiveness of L2 instruction:  a research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis.  Language Learning 50/3:417-528.

Spada, N. and Tomita, Y.  2010.  Interactions between type of instruction and type of language feature:  a meta-analysis.  Language Learning 60/2:1-46.


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A Statistical Look at English Proficiency in U.S. Schools

Teacher holding a book in classElaine Hirsch takes a look at the changing level of proficiency standards in the United States school system.

English proficiency has steadily improved among U.S. students over the last 30 years, thanks to a collective emphasis on language skills in American schools. As immigration numbers increase on an annual basis, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) faces new challenges to ensure America’s children are able to communicate effectively with their peers. Luckily many experts believe impressive annual growth indicates an optimistic outlook for American English-speaking students.

Significant improvement has been recorded among children who learn English as a second language (ESL), says the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). In 2010, IES reported that the number of school-age children (5 to 17 years old) who primarily spoke languages other than English in their homes rose from 4.7 million to 11.2 million between 1980 and 2009. As this number rose, so did the level of English proficiency among ESL students. IES reported that roughly 41 percent of these children struggled with English in 1980; by 2009, this figure had reduced to 24 percent.

Age has shown to be a critical factor when it comes to effectively learning English. Seven percent of 5- to 9-year-olds spoke a non-English language at home and struggled with English in school, compared to four percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17. This figure can be largely attributed to the increased amount of programs for English Language Learners (ELLs) in the nation’s schools. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) reported that ELLs attending grades 7-12 increased by more than 70 percent since 1992, and K-12 enrollments for ELLs rose by 5 percent since 1990. A resource for accredited online graduate courses explains that as the number of children and young adults enrolling in ESL classes continues to grow, so does the need for teachers. Thus it’s not a bad idea for students interested in education to consider taking classes, or enrolling, in ESL or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs.

Race and ethnicity also play a statistical role in English proficiency. Sixteen percent of both Asian and Hispanic children who did not speak English at home ultimately struggle as ELLs, compared to six percent of Pacific Islanders, three percent of Native Americans and less than one percent among Caucasians and African-Americans. These figures are problematic, since Asians and Hispanics constitute the largest influx of legal U.S. immigrants.

Fortunately, according to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statistics, the English proficiency of even struggling demographics improves as students get older. Roughly 25 to 45 percent of immigrated Asian and Hispanic children qualified as “limited English proficient (LEP).” Of these students, many lived in “isolated households,” or residences in which no one older than 14 speaks English very well. However, percentages of students in these two categories decreased between 6th and 12th grades, and by as much as 50 percent for children from countries like Vietnam, South Korea, Mexico, Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Furthermore, The New York Times reported in 2007 that 88 percent of second-generation members of Latino immigrant families were strong English speakers, compared to 23 percent of their first-generation relatives. This would indicate the children of immigrants are effectively learning to speak English by the time they reach adulthood.

According to NCES, American students overall improved English proficiency last year. In its 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), English reading scores among American 4th and 8th grade students increased among children of higher- and lower-income families. Additionally, nationwide schools are undergoing major changes that potentially impact ELLs in a very positive way. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced plans to dismantle NCLB and transfer the responsibility from federal to state level. This move will conceivably allow each state DOE to customize the curricula taught in its schools. ELLs and other students with special English language needs will play a major role in states with a large immigrant population, including California, Texas, New York and Florida—the four most populous states.

As annual U.S. immigration numbers continue to soar, numbers show more new citizens are learning English than ever before. Their children are grasping the new language early in their education, and are able to hone this skill as they reach adulthood. As our schools evolve to meet the needs of ELLs, experts believe these figures will only improve.

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