Anna Bokszczanin

List of Contributors
Anna Bokszczanin
Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel
Anna Letowt-Vorbek
How to Study at the Foreign Languages
Teacher Training College:
A Practical Guide
Malgorzata Adams-Tukiendorf
Department of English Philology, Opole University, Opole
English Section, NKJO Opole
Aneta Bojarska
English Section, NKJO Opole
Anna Bokszczanin
Department of Psychology, Opole University, Opole
English Section, NKJO Opole
Stephen Dewsbury
Department of English Philology, Opole University, Opole
English Section, NKJO Opole
Wacław Grzybowski
Department of English Philology, Opole University, Opole
English Section, NKJO Opole
Barbara Jaroszewicz
English Section, NKJO Opole
Ewa Kropielnicka
English Section, NKJO Opole
Anna Letowt-Vorbek
English Section, NKJO Opole
Tadzio Lewandowski
Department of English Philology, Opole University, Opole
English Section, NKJO Opole
Liliana Piasecka
Deparment of English Philology, Opole University, Opole
English Section, NKJO Opole
Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel
Department of English Philology, Opole University, Opole
English Section, NKJO Opole
Magdalena Szyszka
English Section, NKJO Opole
for Students and Teachers
45-782 OPOLE, ul. HALLERA 9
tel./fax: +48 77 474 67 24, +48 77 474 38 03
e-mail: [email protected]
ISBN 83-924577-0-6, 978-83-924577-0-1
Druk: Drukarnia LITAR, Opole, ul. Popiełuszki 26, tel. 077 4562088
Preface ..................................................................................................................................... 5
PART I. Theoretical .............................................................................................................. 7
Chapter 1. Liliana Piasecka
Where Do Good Foreign Language Teachers Come From? ................................................... 9
Chapter 2. Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel
Supporting Students with Learning Difficulties in a Foreign Language Lesson ........................ 15
Chapter 3. Anna Bokszczanin
How to Cope with Stress? Some Hints for College Students .............................................. 23
PART II. Practical ................................................................................................................ 27
Section A. Developing FL Skills
Chapter 4. Stephen Dewsbury
First Year Conversation Classes and How to Survive Them ................................................ 29
Chapter 5. Tadzio Lewandowski
Conversation III at NKJO ..................................................................................................... 35
Chapter 6. Anna Letowt-Vorbek
Practical Writing Course at NKJO ........................................................................................ 41
Chapter 7. Aneta Bojarska
Listening Comprehension ..................................................................................................... 45
Section B. Focus on Methodology
Chapter 8. Magdalena Szyszka
Methodology of TEFL – 2nd Year Course ............................................................................. 49
Chapter 9. Małgorzata Adams-Tukiendorf
Methodology - How Do I Know They Are Learning? .......................................................... 55
Chapter 10. Barbara Jaroszewicz
Teaching English to Young Learners – 2nd Year Course ....................................................... 59
Chapter 11. Ewa Kropielnicka
Teaching English to Children and Youngsters ....................................................................... 63
Chapter 12. Magdalena Szyszka
Teaching Practice – 2nd and 3rd Year ....................................................................................... 65
Chapter 13. Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel
Language Acquisition Licenctiateship: Seminar .................................................................. 69
Section C. Study through English
Chapter 14. Anna Bokszczanin
Introduction to Psychology and Pedagogy ............................................................................ 75
Chapter 15. Wacław Grzybowski
Lectures on History of American Literature .......................................................................... 79
Chapter 16. Anna Letowt-Vorbek
In at the Deep End – Learning on the Job and How to Survive as an Alien .......................... 85
The idea of this book was established a year ago in a discussion with colleagues on the 15th
Anniversary of the Teacher Training College (here called NKJO) in Opole. The book focuses on
methodology of teaching English, as well as other subjects in the English Section of our College.
It is written in English to play the role of a handbook in fields of study at NKJO and ways of
studying for our candidates, students, as well as teachers and all interested parties.
attempts to answer the question of how to tell if students are learning or not. Barbara Jaroszewicz
develops the topic of teaching English to young learners and Ewa Kropielnicka includes further
discussion on children and youngsters as language learners. Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel presents
an overview of the language acquisition seminar undertakings. The last section is devoted to
studies through English. Anna Bokszczanin gives an introduction to psychology and pedagogy
for teachers. Wacław Grzybowski discusses his lectures on history of American literature. The
last paper by Anna Letowt-Vorbek is a presentation of her views as a native speaker abroad.
General information
NKJO in Opole was founded on October 1, 1990. It works under the supervision of Opole
University and Wrocław University. The main aim of NKJO is to educate future teachers of English,
French and German for work at primary, junior high and high schools. The College studies last
3 years and cover basic knowledge of literature and linguistics, ensure fluent knowledge of the
selected foreign language and give a sound methodological preparation for teachers. College
graduates receive a diploma, equivalent to European Licentiate, entitling them to teach at any
type of school.
The program in each specialization comprises three components: linguistic, pedagogical and
philological. The linguistic component is devoted to the study of the four skills in the selected
language (speaking, writing, reading and listening). Our students have practical classes in
pronunciation, grammar and the core skills. The pedagogical component includes classes on
psychology, pedagogy and methodology of teaching the foreign language. There is also the
block teaching practice module. The philological component contains classes and workshops
on history and culture of countries of the selected language, theoretical foundations of grammar,
as well as literature.
Apart from the above didactic aim of this publication, the volume is intended to promote NKJO
in the local and national community. It presents the theoretical and practical background of study
at NKJO. It offers a chance for the teachers to present their unique resources in teaching and to
exchange experiences between teachers and students. As such, it is an occasion for empowerment
and consolidation of the community in our school.
The contents of the publication consist of authorised texts concerning theoretical and practical
issues related to teaching and studying at NKJO, information is organised in chronological order of
study, which means that First Year topics are presented at the beginning of each section, followed
by those referring to Second and Third Year studies.
We would like to express our gratitude to the following people, without whom this publication
would not have been possible: Krzysztof Brzozowski, Teresa Gorzkula-Sznajder and Ewa
Tarnawska for their support in the idea of the concept of this book. We also thank the College
personnel for their help in overcoming difficulties. Thanks also go to all College students and
teachers for their being there.
Anna Bokszczanin
Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel
Anna Letowt-Vorbek
Opole, 27 October 2006
Structure of this volume
The volume is divided into two parts: theoretical and practical. The first part consists of three
theoretical papers, the first one by Liliana Piasecka is devoted to identifying the characteristics of
good language teachers. There is also a paper by Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel on the more problematic
features of teaching foreign languages (learning deficits). The last chapter by Anna Bokszczanin
deals with ways in which College students can cope with stress.
The second part is divided into three sections. The first is devoted to themes on developing
foreign language skills. Stephen Dewsbury and Tadzio Lewandowski present the ways of promoting
conversation skills throughout the period of studies, Anna Letowt-Vorbek focuses on practical
writing issues covered through all three years and Aneta Bojarska explores listening comprehension
matters. The next section contains six papers on methodological topics. Magdalena Szyszka
discusses both the TEFL methodology course and teaching practice. Małgorzata Adams-Tukiendorf
Liliana Piasecka
Becoming informed
Where Do Good Foreign Language Teachers Come From?
Becoming a foreign language teacher
Our Teacher Training College has a great responsibility – its purpose is to train teachers of
foreign languages who shall then teach these languages to the very young, quite young, young and
not quite so young in a wide range of educational institutions. What makes a good teacher? We
all have met various teachers in our lives and we can say who was good and who was not. Some
memories are strikingly vivid; we can recall classroom episodes with great accuracy, and we do
remember our teachers very well.
We agree that a good teacher knows the subject matter very well, but is it enough? Definitely not.
There is more to being a good teacher than being an expert in a given branch of knowledge. A good
teacher knows how to help her/his learners to learn by teaching in interesting, inspiring and creative
ways. Learners are very good observers and their advice may be useful and illuminating. I once
read a paper on classroom discipline, its authors collected some advice from pupils who realized
that certain teacher behaviours may cause discipline problems. Their advice reads as follows:
Ø Don’t be too easy-going or we’ll take advantage.
Ø Make the work clear.
Ø Avoid funny mannerisms or we’ll laugh at you.
Ø If you really lose your temper it may be frightening, it can also be embarrassing and funny.
Ø Don’t get angry or frustrated with us if we don’t understand.
Ø Be strict, be human.
Ø Be consistent.
Ø Never leave the classroom.
Ø Keep your word.
Ø Find out why people are late.
Ø Don’t be suspicious of us.
Ø Wear something like smart office clothes.
Ø Don’t give out more punishment than other teachers.
Ø Don’t act as if you know it all, admit mistakes.
Ø Treat students as if they have rights.
Ø Arrive on time.
Ø Remember we vary in patience, attention span, ability, etc.
Ø Give us enough to do.
Ø Listen to us (Walker & Newman, 1991, pp. 15-16).
These pieces of advice may be regarded as a set of guidelines for the teacher’s behaviour in the
classroom. In addition, the teacher performs many different roles in the classroom. She/he is a controller,
organizer, assessor, prompter, participant, resource, tutor, observer (Harmer, 2001) and many more.
The aim of the English Language Teaching Methodology course is to prepare the students to take these
roles and to perform them to the best of their abilities while teaching English to Poles. This involves
theoretical knowledge which is the basis for understanding how language works and what it means to
know it (competence), how people learn their first and second languages, what makes their learning
successful, how their personal characteristics and talents influence their learning. Becoming a teacher
also means acquiring practical teaching skills and techniques for various teaching contexts.
Theoretical foundations for becoming a teacher are built during lectures. First, the students and
the lecturer try to decide what language – the subject matter – is (students share their own definitions
of language) and then I present basic theories of language. Since teachers teach and learners learn, I
also discuss general learning theories which explain how knowledge is acquired, how attitudes are
formed and habits developed, how we remember and how we forget and what the role of practice
in learning is. We also analyse how we learn our mother tongue, or L1, and try to decide whether
learning a foreign/second language (L2) is the same as L1 learning or different. Both similarities
and differences can be found so the role of our L1 cannot be ignored while we learn L2, L3, etc.
As language teachers, we should be aware of the role our knowledge of L1 plays in the process of
learning L2 (Brown, 2000; Lightbown & Spada, 1993).
Having the basic knowledge about language and its learning, we shift our attention to how people
were learning foreign languages in the past. Ever since humans started speaking various languages,
they were learning the languages of the people with whom they did business, allied or fought. This is
termed “a market place” tradition in language learning and it refers to picking up language through
its use in specific situations. It is balanced by the so-called “monastery tradition”, according to
which languages such as classical Greek or Latin were studied for the intellectual growth of their
learners and users (McArthur, 1983). It also has to be remembered that in medieval Europe Latin
was the language of communication, or lingua franca, for the Church, University, Diplomacy and
Politics. National languages, for example Polish or English, were emerging as independent and
legitimate means of official communication. The need to learn and use these vernacular languages
appeared in the Renaissance.
The history of teaching English as a foreign language goes back to the 16th century, the time of
Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Europe. French Huguenots and other Protestants from
continental Europe fled to England where they found shelter and security. They were mostly skilled
craftsmen and artisans who practised their trade in England to be able to survive. Among them
there were also teachers who helped the refugees to learn the language of the local community,
which was necessary if they were to succeed in their trade and craft (Howatt, 1984). These refugee
teachers developed the first manuals for teaching English as a foreign language. Such were the
Significant changes in the approach to teaching foreign languages took place in the 19th century,
when physical distances between places started shrinking due to the development of railways.
Educators became concerned about the most appropriate and effective ways of teaching foreign
languages. Their work, also known as the Reform Movement, and the foundation of the International
Phonetic Association in 1886 resulted in specifying theoretical bases for “a scientific approach to
the study of language and language learning” (Richards & Rodgers, 1986, p. 8). Briefly, spoken
language was given priority in teaching and learning, phonetic training was encouraged, vocabulary
of the language was to be presented in sentences, not through translation, which was the common
practice of those days, and grammar was to be taught inductively. This meant that learners first came
across a number of examples of how a given grammatical structure was used and, on the basis of
observation and analysis, they formulated their own rules on how a given form was used. In this
way they constructed their own internal grammar of the language they were learning.
Since the end of the 19th century a wide range of language teaching approaches and methods
has developed. Generally, they may be grouped into two broad categories, i.e., conventional and
unconventional, the former being applied in broad educational contexts of primary and secondary
education, whereas the latter are used in limited educational situations, for example in language
schools. All these approaches and methods are based on the scientific foundations, that is they reflect
a theory of language and a theory of learning that were dominant at the time when the methods
were designed. The theoretical foundations have influenced the aims of language teaching, the
choice of language items for teaching and their organization, the most appropriate teaching and
learning activities, the roles of teachers and learners as well as classroom procedures that would
make the achievement of the goals of language teaching most effective. If the position is taken
that language is used for oral communication and the exchange of various kinds of information,
then the teachers’ aim would be to teach the language for communication which entails not only
the knowledge of grammatical forms and words we may need to convey our messages to others.
Various functions that linguistic forms perform in different social configurations also need to be
recognized. Let us imagine the following situation: we want to invite a group of people to an
event that we organize, for example to a performance of an amateur theatrical group which we
are a member of. The form of invitation will differ depending on who we invite. If we address our
friends, or family, we may say
How about coming to our performance? or even more simply:
Come to our performance!
But if we invite our teachers or the head of the school, we will change the linguistic form to
show our respect for the social status of the people we are inviting, so we may say:
We are pleased to invite you to our performance, Madam/Sir, or
Would you be so kind and accept our invitation?
We would be honoured if you were so kind and accepted our invitation.The above examples
show how one linguistic function, inviting, is realized by many linguistic forms that depend on the
social context of language use.
The knowledge how to use language accurately and appropriately is termed communicative
competence and the development of this competence is the goal of one of the most frequently used
language teaching methods nowadays, namely Communicative Language Teaching, also known
as the Communicative Approach.
Communicative Language Teaching has become one of the conventional methods group, together
with Situational Language Teaching, Grammar Translation Method, or the Audiolingual Method. The
unconventional methods, the elements of which may be found in many language classrooms, comprise
Total Physical Response, the Silent Way, Community Language Learning , the Natural Approach or
Suggestopedia. The repertoire of language teaching methods is not fixed – it changes because the
world we live in changes and we have to face new challenges and solve new problems. Therefore
the latest developments in this area are also discussed, for example such methods as Task-Based
Language Teaching, Whole Language and Multiple Intelligences, Neurolinguistic Programming,
Lexical Approach and Competency-Based Language Teaching (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). This
multiplicity of perspectives points to the fact that teaching and learning foreign languages is shaped
by our understanding of language and learning and that it cannot be separated from the needs of
various group of learners.
Becoming aware and sensitive
Since the learner is the main actor in the process of getting or acquiring language, the lectures
during the 3rd year at the College focus on many topics related to the learner. Thus cognitive and
learning styles and strategies are discussed. Recognizing one’s cognitive style may be useful both
for the learner and for the teacher. The learner may understand why certain ways of learning are
more suitable for her/him whereas the teacher who is aware of the learners’ styles may prepare
such classroom activities that would satisfy most learners and contribute to successful learning.
Learning styles refer to how an individual perceives and processes reality, to how an individual
gains knowledge and solves problems. Some learners are more visual, more reflective, more open
to conflicting bits and pieces of information. Some are more analytic, others are more holistic in the
ways in which they process the world (Brown, 2000). A simple example may illustrate the point.
Below there is a square divided into smaller squares. How many squares can you see?
Figure 1. A simple test for field-dependence – field-independence
Some people will say they can see 16 squares, some will identify many more. How many can you
see? This simple example shows that when seeing the same shape, people perceive it differently. People
who are more analytic, or field-independent, will see more squares, people who are more holistic, or
field-dependent, will see fewer squares. However, all of them can see the squares.
Learners are not limited to their intellect and cognitive abilities, they also have feelings and emotions
that play a significant role in their lives, including learning. Success in learning depends on how people
view themselves with regard to others, whether they think they are successful, whether they are afraid
of learning, whether they can see things from the perspective of another person and, last but not least,
why they learn what they learn. These questions are addressed when personality factors such as selfesteem, inhibition, anxiety, empathy, risk-taking, extroversion and motivation are discussed.
Learners are individuals but they also belong to a community which shares the language and culture/
cultures. Learning another language means learning to participate in another community and (an)other
culture/s, therefore sociocultural factors are also focused on. Students discuss cultural stereotypes,
i.e., how they perceive typical representatives of other cultures or language communities and consider
the possible influences of these stereotypes on the attitudes they develop towards languages and their
speakers and how these attitudes may contribute to learning the language of a given speech community.
The relations between language, thought and culture (Brown, 2000) are also considered.
Finally, the issues related to the language that the language learner develops, refered to as
“interlanguage”, errors that appear in the process of language acquisiton, their sources and role in the
development of interlanguage and on the process of fossilization, i.e. why learners stop developing
their L2 even though they have not reached the standard, are analysed and discussed.
Learning is inseparable from testing, or finding out how much has been learned, how well it has
been learned and how the learned material can be used. The lectures on testing provide the students
with a theoretical framework for testing by specifying criteria of good tests (validity, reliability,
practicality), types of tests and their aims, testing techniques and practical guidelines for preparing
one’s own tests (Hughes, 1989, Komorowska, 1984, 2002). Testing is one but not the only way of
evaluating and assessing learners’ work and progress thus other ways of evaluating are also considered,
for example, on-going assessment, assessment through portfolios and project work, self-assessment,
etc. A combination of evaluation techniques allows the teacher to identify the learners’ strengths and
weaknesses and, consequently, to propose remedies where necessary.
In addition, many other problems are addressed, for example, discipline problems in the classroom
and how to cope with them, choice of teaching materials (coursebooks and other teaching/learning
aids) as well as the curricula for teaching English as a foreign language in primary, junior high and
secondary schools.
Creating one’s own philosophy of teaching
By no means is the course exhaustive. Many topics are only signalled for the students’ attention
if they wish to attend to them. However, with the theoretical foundations that they have I do hope
they will be able to create their own philosophy of teaching. They can reflect on themselves as
language learners (who they definitely are) and language teachers who they aspire to become. I
strongly believe that my students do and will make the best of the learners’ abilities, the school, the
materials and resources available, the environment and, naturally, of themselves.
The abundance and diversity of topics in the Methodology Course allows many students to pursue
them further when they write their diploma papers. Thus papers have been written on learners’
motivation, on learners’ and teachers’ attitudes and opinions on the place and role of pronunciation
in the process of language learning, on teaching grammar and vocabulary, on e-mail and the Internet
in language learning and teaching, to mention only a few. Most research projects have been carried
out in real classrooms, across various age groups and proficiency levels and the data gathered in
this way has allowed students to develop a deeper understanding of language learning and teaching
processes, practises, and phenomena.
Research perspectives
Every year conferences, symposia and seminars are organized around the topics related to foreign/second
language learning and teaching, for example International Conferences on Foreign/Second Language
Acquisition in Szczyrk, PASE Conferences, PTN Conferences or IATEFL Poland Conferences, to
mention only a few organized in Poland. A variety of theoretical and research papers presented at the
conferences shows that although many topics have been investigated, the field is still waiting to be
further explored. This is partly due to the development and constant improvement of new computer
technologies which enable researchers to collect and process data in ways that were impossible before
the advent of computers (e.g., on-line questionnaires, or advanced statistical tools).
Future research will have to address the role of new communication technologies and media in a
broad context of teacher education. The teacher has to be aware of the positive and negative aspects
of the Web and of its possible uses in the process of language teaching. The Web is a rich source of
language learning materials, e.g., e-journals or e-books which, properly used, may contribute to a
final success in language learning.
Research may also focus on social and emotional functioning of teachers and learners in the
microcosm of the foreign language classroom. Both parties act in the classroom with a set of positive
and negative feelings and attitudes which shape the teaching-learning process. Finding out how to
synchronize teacher actions with learners’ needs within the requirements of the syllabus may be
another challenge for researchers.
Eventually, comparative studies between the learners’ skills and abilities in L1 and L2 are
always welcome as they show whether and to what extent the skill developed in L1 (e.g., reading or
writing) transfers to L2. Obviously, the level of skill would depend on a number of individual learner
characteristics which cannot be ignored in these kinds of studies.
I have sketched only a few general research possibilities which can be developed into more refined
research projects reflecting the current needs of the foreign language teaching/learning community.
I have been teaching my subject for over 12 years and I have also learnt a lot from my students. I
have learnt that at the beginning they are scared and bewildered by the sheer number of new terms
for concepts they have to become familiar with to follow the course. To help them with this, I prepare
various sorts of tasks that require them to show how they understand and use the terms (e.g. matching
terms and their definitions). I have also learned that when I refer to our common experience as Polish
learners of English, many theoretical considerations become clear and relevant. I have also learned
that students must be given opportunities to express their doubts and frustration along with certainty
and satisfaction. And I have also learned that a sense of humour helps us all to get through and to
I started the paper asking the question “Where do good foreign language teachers come from?” I
can say they come from many backgrounds and personal experiences. They come from an attempt at
understanding why things happen the way they do, why children are not angels and why classrooms
sometimes turn into battlegrounds. They come from recognizing the inherent diversity of individual
people living in various group and communities, using language or languages for communication
with other people. They come from self-reflection. And I hope they also come from our College.
To conclude, I would like to refer to a personal memory. Once I was attending a course for EFL
teachers in Britain. After classes, we had free time to look around and find things out for ourselves.
As I was strolling along one of the side streets, I noticed a small shop full of cards. Curious, I entered
and found an enormous selection of cards for various occasions and for no occasions at all. Intrigued,
I went through many of them, had a good laugh at the drawings, pictures, clever and funny texts. I
also found a card that I still carry with myself. It reads:
If a child lives with criticism,
it learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
it learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
it learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
it learns to be guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
it learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
it learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
it learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
it learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
it learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
it learns to like itself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
it learns to find love in the world.
We are all children of the Universe, after all.
Brown, H. D., Principles of language learning and teaching. 4th ed. Longman (2000)
Harmer, J., The practice of English language teaching. 3rd edn. Pearson Education (2001)
Howatt, A. P. R., A history of English language teaching. Oxford University Press (1984)
Hughes, A., Testing for language teachers. Cambridge University Press (1989)
Komorowska, H., Testy w nauczaniu języków obcych. WSiP (1984)
Komorowska, H., Sprawdzanie umiejętności w nauce języka obcego. Kontrola ocenatestowanie. Fraszka Edukacyjna (2002)
Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N., How languages are learned. Oxford University Press (1993)
McArthur, T., A foundation course for language teachers. Cambridge University Press (1983)
Richards, J. & Rodgers, T., Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge
University Press (1986)
Richards, J. & Rodgers, T., Approaches and methods in language teaching. 2nd ed.
Cambridge University Press (2001)
Walker, C. & Newman, I., Classroom discipline. English teaching practice, 12,15-16 (1991)
Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel
Supporting Students with Learning Difficulties in a Foreign Language Lesson
Not all students taught at school develop in the same way. Some of them seem to have serious
problems with adaptation to school conditions or the material to be learnt. It is vital for the teacher
to be able to recognize and assist such students in their learning process. Hence, the training
obtained at the College also enables trainees to adapt their teaching repertoire to accommodate
the needs of students who lag behind for a variety of reasons. Below is an outline of a workshop
devoted to ways of supporting students with learning difficulties. The workshop is aimed at teacher
interventions that do not require specialist training in the field of special educational needs. First,
a general picture of a learner with learning deficits is presented, then dyslexic-friendly teacher
behaviour is described, followed by examples of tasks developing the four skills. Finally, alternative
methods of dealing with learner stress and anxiety are outlined, like deep breathing, the use of
essential oils or art therapy.
Learning deficits
In many cases low-achieving learners may fall into the category of special educational needs
(SEN). In this case they have a learning difficulty demanding special educational provision to be
made for them. Learning difficulties can range from moderate to severe, and include among others:
sensory impairment (blindness, deafness), Down’s syndrome, autism, communication disturbances,
motor impairment, emotional and behavioural problems (Alcott, 1997). Here a group of students
with a cluster of specific learning difficulties called developmental dyslexia can be identified.
Basically speaking, the word dyslexia means ‘difficulty with words’ and it refers to difficulties
in the skills of reading, writing and spelling. There are many definitions of the term. According
to the latest one, it is:
a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties
with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These
difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often
unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.
Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading
experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (Lyon, Shaywitz
& Shaywitz, 2003, p. 2)
The origins of dyslexia are still under scrutiny. It is claimed that it mostly runs in families, but
it can also be caused by hearing problems at an early age. Autoimmune diseases or allergies are
also stated as frequent causes of dyslexia (Bogdanowicz, 2003).
A dyslexic student can be recognized on the basis of clearly specified symptoms. One of the most
obvious signs are reversals. Such learners often confuse letters like b and d, either when reading
or writing. Another sign is elisions – when a person sometimes reads or writes cat when the word
is actually cart. Such a student reads very slowly and hesitantly, without fluency, word by word.
Their reading comprehension or memory for reading is low. Such a student may also try to sound
out the letters of the word, but then be unable to say the correct word. They may read or write
the letters of a word in the wrong order, like saw for was or the syllables in the wrong order, like
emeny for enemy, or words in the wrong order, like is there for there is. They may spell words as
they sound, for example fite for fight. Their handwriting may be poor and/or slow (Jurek, 2004).
Dyslexia significantly affects the individual’s learning abilities as such students are found to
be easily distracted, uncoordinated; they may also have poor time-management skills. Apart from
difficulties at the orthographic/phonological level, they have problems understanding language
rules or reflecting on language (Ganschow & Sparks, 2000).
Many negative effects of developmental dyslexia are connected with a high level of frustration
for the pupil, which in turn leads to emotional and behavioural problems (Alcott, 1997). It is clearly
visible in the process of learning a foreign language inducing feelings of apprehension and doubt
when learners need to express their mature thoughts in a language they have not fully mastered
(Schneider & Crombie, 2003). Dyslexic students are found to have serious problems acquiring
the foreign language (Bogdanowicz, 2005). Hence, it is now claimed that general language skills
also affect the acquisition of the foreign language (Sparks & Ganschow, 1991).
Dyslexics with their defective phonemic awareness that may be sufficient for L1 but deficient
for L2 (Nijakowska, 2005) experience the process of foreign language acquisition as even more
stressful than their unimpaired peers. Hence, cognitive functioning of dyslexic students is a correlate
of their language deficits and, consequently, affective differences. Due to constitutional reasons,
dyslexic foreign language learners may suffer from high language anxiety levels that may prevail
throughout the whole language learning process (Ganschow, Sparks & Javorsky, 1998). Consequently,
it may be presumed that any negative emotions connected with L2 acquisition experienced by
non-dyslexic students may constitute a remarkably significant threat to their dyslexic peers.
Teacher behaviour
In class there are different ways in which you can help a learner with learning difficulties, even
if you have not had any consistent dyslexia-related training. Below you can find a set of basic
techniques any teacher can apply.
1. Sit him at the front of the class
In this way it will be possible for you to keep and eye on the student and give him a feeling
he is not neglected. At the same time you can check if he copies everything from the board
correctly and offer him help whenever necessary.
2. Speak clearly
A dyslexic student has problems understanding messages delivered in an angry and loud
voice. Speak clearly and repeat the words to be learnt in different contexts.
3. Write clearly
Make your handwriting on the board legible and large enough for everyone to see. Your
corrections in copybooks should be clear, as well.
4. Make allowances
A dyslexic’s written production cannot be assessed following the same requirements as that
of a student without deficits. Take into consideration the fact that his writing takes definitely
much more time and effort. Remember to explain to the rest of the class why the dyslexic
student needs your extra attention (Hornsby, 1995).
Integrating a student with learning deficits in the school routine requires a balance between
giving them enough attention and excessive surveillance. Try to introduce the following guidelines
into your teaching routines:
● as far as written work is concerned, give a dyslexic more time and expect a lower quantity.
When assessing it, take into consideration content rather than presentation,
● do not use a red colour when marking written work. Draw the learner’s attention to 3-4
selected mistakes only and insist on the student learning their corrected forms,
● involve a dyslexic verbally in the lesson to give them a chance to show their knowledge,
● don’t ask a dyslexic to read aloud in class without preparation,
● use other media for presenting homework – a tape, drawing or booklet with pictures would
be a good idea (Hornsby, 1995; Jurek, 2005).
Teaching the four skills
Apart from these general guidelines that can be implemented on a regular basis, there are also
other ways of lowering the level of frustration and anxiety on the part of the student with learning
difficulties. Many of them will aim at equipping the beginner learner with speaking routines and
prefabricated patterns that will enable them to have a feeling of natural communication in spite
of their low abilities.
The contemporary, dominant approach to teaching English, Communicative Language Teaching
(CLT) stresses the importance of real communication, meaningful tasks and meaningful language
(Richards & Rodgers, 1986). Although it is expected that this approach is extremely anxietybreeding (Arnold & Brown, 1999), for a dyslexic student it may in some cases be quite beneficial
because accuracy is not a priority. The key skills are speaking and listening, while the skill of
reading, so problematical for a dyslexic, is developed at the level of context and not a single word.
The collection of activities presented below is adapted from the book edited by Young, Affect
in foreign language and second language learning. A practical guide to creating a low-anxiety
classroom (1999).
The first step is to teach the basics of the spoken language. Conversational gambits serving
the purpose of beginning a conversation seem to be of key importance (By the way… Listen…
Well…). The student who is not proficient in English uses these routines to make his speech more
fluent and to create an image of an able speaker. Another trick is topic delaying (Uh… You know…
Well… So…), or engaging a partner in the conversation (How about you? Do you agree? What
do you think?).
The foreign language teacher also needs to introduce proper verbal reactions, like showing
understanding (Yes… I understand), clarification (I don’t understand. Huh? Pardon? You mean?),
consent (Absolutely! You’re right. I agree. Super!), disagreement (I don’t agree! No way! Absolutely not!
I don’t like it. I’m sorry.), hesitation (Well, … It’s possible, but… I don’t know... It depends).
Interactions with the teacher should follow patterns of a natural conversation. The same refers to
interactions with other students (Do (did) you understand?. I don’t (didn’t) understand anything.
What is the task? What do you think? You start. Go on! You’re wrong) (Phillips, 1999).
Teaching the four skills (speaking, writing, reading and listening) may give way to serious
stress on the part of any student, especially one with learning difficulties, such as developmental
dyslexia. The skill of speaking seems to be the most anxiety-breeding. Its development in a dyslexic
student may be affected by the phonological impairment that is the core of developmental dyslexia
problems (Sparks & Ganschow, 1993). Nevertheless, there are ways of adapting any speaking task
to be more learner-friendly. Below you can find an example of such a speaking activity:
Example 1
With four partners you are a family (Grandma, Mom, Dad, John and Bernadette). You are
talking about a family vacation 10 years ago: the house where you stayed, the various activities
the family did, what you ate (of course John remembers it best!), the people you met at the beach
and the long car trips. Unfortunately, everybody remembers things differently. Decide which role
you will play and write down five ‘memories’ according to your role. Share and compare your
Not surprisingly, the role play brings about a lot of humour with all the family members
remembering the same things differently. Moreover, learners work in a group, which lowers their
tension as responsibility for the task is shared by all group members. Even learners with a limited
linguistic repertoire are able to take part in the role play after some time devoted to preparation
and applying the communication strategies described above (Phillips, 1999).
The skill of listening is also considered to be anxiety-breeding, especially when learners work
with the a recording, which does not allow them to use clues aiding them in communication, like
taking advantage of the facial expression of the interlocutor or a request for clarification.
Example 2
Get leaflets with descriptions of homes for sale. Find the information on price, number of rooms,
number of bathrooms, and so on. Write them on the board. Now watch and listen to four televised
homes for sale and match each home to its written counterpart (brochure). Discuss how students
arrived at their answers.
The task allows for developing the listening skill in various steps. First, students brainstorm
their ideas connected with a home for sale, which will later facilitate their understanding of
the information in the video. They also combine the skill of listening with the skill of reading,
reinforcing the material to be learnt. While listening to the sound, they activate the visual channel,
so the information comes from various modalities. In the final step they consciously review the
listening strategies they apply: guessing the word, using background knowledge, using visual
input, discourse functions, etc. (Vogely, 1999).
Reading is usually considered to be extremely difficult for dyslexics. Nevertheless, in the
foreign language lesson it may not be the case. Such a statement is supported by the findings in the
field, according to which the reading and listening skills are least anxiety-provoking (Brantmeier,
2005) because learners do not produce language. Moreover, dyslexics are found to have better
reading effects when they read in context (Snowling & Hulme, 1997). They not only decode but
use syntactic and semantic information to modify their incomplete or faulty articulation on the
basis of their ineffective decoding. However, the nature of reading processes in developmental
dyslexia still requires more research because scientists still vary in their opinions concerning the
complexity and difficulty of contextual reading (Lyon & Chhabra, 1996; Simpson, 2000).
Example 3
Read the first three paragraphs of the article. Find and underline the sentence expressing the
main idea of the article. Decide which of the following is the best paraphrase of that sentence. Be
sure to verify your selection with the rest of the class.
a. According to British audiences, villains should be foreign because they cannot be
b. For a villain a hobby can be part of their work.
c. Villains are people who for a reason turned to evil.
d. A true villain has expensive tastes.
The article has no title. The title helps us figure out the main idea of an article. Which of the
following do you think is the original title of the article? Make your own selection, the see what
the rest of the class chose.
a. How do you get so mean?
b. The rise of the British film industry
c. The ways of the world
d. Male superiority
The task allows the student to work from particulars to the general idea of the article. First,
the focus is on scanning when the text is approached from the perspective of a paragraph, then
skimming (the whole). Hence, the learner develops their organization, assimilation and synthesis
of ideas (Lee, 1999).
Dyslexic students also have problems with writing. Below you will find an example of a writing
activity that mostly focuses on the writing process, not product, thus lowering the learners’ anxiety
and stress level.
Example 4
For homework select a topic you already know something about. Brainstorm all ideas about
the topic. Write the first draft. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, because you will have time
to revise it. Bring a draft to the classroom. In groups of three or four do the following:
1. Each of you tells the group what you said in the draft. Exchange papers, read
and analyze one another’s drafts.
2. Exchange papers without feedback. Read the title, the first and the last sentence.
3. Read the whole paper quickly. Just get a general idea.
4. Begin at the beginning once again, this time read carefully to the end.
5. Write your comments on the margin.
All the drafts together with comments go back to their authors. Read the comments you received
and respond to them. Write a new version of the paper.
The activity begins with the learner deciding about the topic, which gives them the freedom
to choose the one suiting them best. The next step is brainstorming, allowing students to divide
the text into smaller parts and begin with any part they choose. It can be expected that in the case
of dyslexics, the paper will bear a certain number of mistakes but later they will be corrected by
their peers. The activity has definitely become a group responsibility with the readers sharing the
quality of the final version of the paper (Leki, 1999).
body sinking into the ground. Breathe slowly. Feel the tension leave your body. Imagine
that your spine is like a hanger, strong and straight, it holds the whole of your body that is
heavy and relaxed. Still breathe slowly at your own speed until you feel all your problems
are gone.
● Method 2: meditation based on breathing
Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly through your nose for about a minute,
then start counting your exhalations. Each time count from 1 to 5, then start again. If any
distracting thoughts make you unable to count, start again from 1. After 20 minutes slowly
finish the exercise. Sit with your eyes closed for about 2 minutes, then open them without
hurry. Let another minute pass before you stand up.
● Method 3: meditation based on a word
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe naturally. Sit still for a minute, then, in silence,
with the smallest possible effort, start repeating the word OM (long O and M) in your
mind. Don’t worry about thoughts and pictures appearing in your mind. Let them go away,
focusing again on your silent repeating of the word OM. If you feel that you attention
diverts to something else, focus it back on repeating the word. After 20 minutes finish the
exercise slowly. Sit still with your eyes closed for about 2 minutes, then open them slowly.
Let another minute pass before you get up.
Stress in the classroom can also be relieved through other media. Alternative methods offer
an interesting chance of controlling stress in an unobtrusive manner. Aromatherapy or the use
of essential oils for psychological and physical well-being is an interesting option within the
classroom context*. The simplest way of applying essential oils is to use fragrance burners that are
made from ceramic, glass or marble with a small container for water that is heated by a tea light
candle. A few drops of essential oil are added to the water. The candle in the pot heats the water
and slowly releases the natural fragrance of the oil into the room. Six to ten drops of essential oil
should suffice, depending on the size of the room. Below is a list of basic essential oils that may
help relieve stress and anxiety in the classroom.
● Cedarwood, Atlas (Cedrus atlantica): anxiety, anger, fear, worry
● Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile): anger, grief, irritability, emotional overstimulation, sadness, stress, worry
● Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea): fear, sadness, worry
● Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): anger, anxiety, moody tendencies, sadness, stress
● Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi): anxiety, emotional exhaustion, frustration, sadness
● Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia): anxiety, irritability, sadness, stress, worry
● Lemon (Citrus lemon): anxiety, bitterness, stress
● Peppermint (Mentha piperita): anxiety, sadness, stress
● Rose (Rosa damascena): anger, bitterness, emotional exhaustion, grief, jealousy, sadness
● Sandalwood (Santalum album): anxiety, irritability, sadness, stress
Alternative methods
Sometimes, when the tension has risen high during the lesson, it is worth finishing it with
a relaxation task to enable students to dispose of negative emotions that can later be identified
with the foreign language learning process. Below is a description of three stress-relieving tasks
adopted from Angelöw (1998). The first technique can be used after a lesson or before a test,
while the remaining two, requiring more time, can be introduced as part of homework practice,
on a regular basis. Use Polish but when students get accustomed to the technique, you may switch
into English.
● Method 1: relaxation
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale as slowly as you can.
Take another breath and this time, while you exhale, feel your shoulders melt and get
heavier. Inhale slowly, while exhaling feel your body relax and become heavy. Feel your
There are other ways of relieving tension. They can be techniques adopted from art therapy,
music therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, psychodrama, poetry therapy, phototherapy,
recreation, play, sandplay and pet therapy.
Stress is a natural part of everyone’s life. Its presence affects optimal performance but its excessive
amounts lead to numerous negative effects (e.g., Oxford, 1999). Hence, it is vital for the teacher to
create a learner-friendly atmosphere in the classroom, which in turn will bring about good learning
effects on the part of the student. A teacher who is approachable and who shows understanding
of all students, with and without learning difficulties is able to offer effective emotional support
that is extremely valuable in the classroom context.
NKJO trainees work with many different students who come from various backgrounds and
who possess different individual characteristics. Developmental dyslexia, affects 10-15% of the
population (Bogdanowicz, 2003) and is a broad field of study generating more questions than
answers. Parents, teachers and dyslexics themselves looking for ways of managing this learning
disability in a foreign language study still try to answer numerous questions that remain open: How
to accommodate learners with language disabilities in large classes? What are the possibilities
of offering multisensory language instruction in mainstream education? How to cooperate with
parents on the issue of foreign language learning? Answers to such questions will help not only
students, but also trainees, many of whom happen to be dyslexic and look for help themselves.
Alcott, M., An introduction to children with special educational needs. Hodder & Stoughton (2002)
Angelöw, B., Jak się uczę skutecznie, szybko i przyjemnie. Molderski i S-ka (1998)
Arnold, J. & Brown, H. D., A map of the terrain. In J. Arnold (Ed.), Affect in language
learning (pp. 1-27). Cambridge University Press (1999)
Bogdanowicz, M., Specyficzne trudności w czytaniu i pisaniu. In T. Gałkowski &
G. Jastrzębowska (Eds.), Logopedia. Pytania i odpowiedzi. Podręcznik akademicki
(pp. 491-608). Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Opolskiego (2003)
Bogdanowicz, M., Fakty i kontrowersje wokół dysleksji rozwojowej. In E. Jędrzejowska,
Dysleksja rozwojowa. Obszary trudności (pp. 9-26). Andragog (2005)
Brantmaier, C., Anxiety about L2 reading or L2 reading tasks? A study with advanced
language learners. The Reading Matrix, 5, 67-85 (2005)
Ganschow, L. & Sparks, R. L., Reflections on foreign language study for students with
language learning problems: Research, issues and challenges. Dyslexia, 6, 87-100 (2000)
Ganschow, L. Sparks, R. L. & Javorsky, J., Foreign language learning difficulties:
An historical perspective. The Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 248-258 (1998)
Hornsby, B., Overcoming dyslexia. Vermillon (1995)
Jurek, A., ABC dysleksji. Języki obce w szkole, 5, 18-40 (2004)
Jurek, A., Zaburzenia uwagi u uczniów z dysleksją rozwojową. In E. Jędrzejowska (Ed.),
Dysleksja rozwojowa. Obszary trudności (98-120). Andragog (2005)
Lee, J. F., Clashes in L2 reading: Research versus practice and readers’ misconceptions.
In D. J. Young (Ed.), Affect in foreign language and second language learning.
A practical guide to creating a low-anxiety classroom (pp. 49-63). McGraw-Hill (1999)
Leki, I., Techniques for reducing second language writing anxiety. In D. J. Young (Ed.),
Affect in foreign language and second language learning. A practical guide to creating
a low-anxiety classroom. (pp. 64-88). McGraw-Hill, (1999)
Lyon, G. R. & Chhabra, V., The current state of science and the future of specific reading
disability. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Research Reviews, 2,
2-9 (1996)
Miles, T. R. & Miles, E., Dyslexia. A hundred years on. Open University Press (1999)
Mininni, D., Przybornik emocjonalny. Jak radzić sobie z emocjami. Wydawnictwo Pandora (2005)
Nijakowska, J., Przyczyny trudności uczniów z dysleksją w nauce języków obcych.
In E. Jędrzejowska (Ed.), Dysleksja rozwojowa. Obszary trudności (pp. 68-77).
Andragog (2005)
Olechowska, A., Wspieranie uczniów ze specjalnymi potrzebami edukacyjnymi. Wskazówki
dla nauczycieli. Akademia Pedagogiki Specjalnej im. Marii Grzegorzewskiej (2001)
Oxford, R., Anxiety and the language learner. In J. Arnold (Ed.), Affect in language
learning (pp. 58-67). Cambridge University Press (1999)
Phillips, E. M., Decreasing language anxiety: Practical techniques for oral activities.
In: D. J. Young (Ed.), Affect in foreign language and second language learning.
A practical guide to creating a low-anxiety classroom (pp. 124-143). McGraw-Hill (1999)
Richards, J. C. & Rodgers, T., Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge
University Press (1986)
Schneider, E. & Crombie, M., Dyslexia and foreign language learning. David Fulton (2003)
Simpson, S., Dyslexia: a developmental language disorder. Child: Care, Health and
Development, 26, 355-380 (2000)
Snowling, M. & Hulme, C., Preface. In M. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds), Dyslexia: Biology,
cognition and intervention (pp. ix-xii). Whurr (1997)
Sparks, R. L. & Ganschow, L., Searching for the cognitive locus of foreign language
difficulties: Linking first and second language learning. The Modern Language Journal, 77,
289-302 (1993)
Vogely, A., Addressing listening comprehension anxiety. In D. J. Young (Ed.), Affect in
foreign language and second language learning. A practical guide to creating a lowanxiety classroom (pp. 106-123). McGraw-Hill (1999)
Anna Bokszczanin
How to Cope with Stress? Some Hints for College Students
We experience stress every day, from the beginning of our lives to the death. Daily hassles,
great life events and also catastrophes diminish our health, trigger anxiety, frustration and anger.
College students are also under school stressors. Can they cope? What coping strategies do
they use? These are questions we try to answer during the introductory course on psychology
and pedagogy. During the course we put an emphasis on awareness of coping with stress,
which is necessary for the mental and physical health of future teachers. Practical abilities
like an understanding of the theoretical background are equally important. Familiarity with
the most popular stress theories will broaden students’ knowledge and horizons.
What does the term stress mean?
reported by students. Each of the events has its own sum of points, which means that more
points show more stress and more problems with health. The worst events are “being raped”
and “death of a close of family member”. In the middle there are “difficulties with parents”
and “depression or a crisis of your best friend”. At the bottom of the list there are the weak
stressors like “making new friends” and “attending an athletic event” (e.g., football game).
Excessive stress impairs an ability of learning and students’ performance.
Some interesting research showed that students who were perfectionists were more likely
than other students to react to stressful life events with symptoms of depression. What are
characteristics of a perfectionist? Perfectionism is known as a personal trait. These are students
who have high demands towards themselves and of other people. These are people strongly
involved in the activities they do and perceived as well-organized people. A perfectionist is
never satisfied enough with his/her achievement. It does not mean that students should not
have high demands. Of course they should but if perfectionism takes the place of progress,
a person can feel paralyzed (Frost et al., 1990).
How to cope with stress effectively?
How often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly? How
often have you have felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
These and similar questions can evaluate how stress attacks you (Adler, 1999). Renner and
Mackin (1998) created a special scale for students. There are 51 events most commonly
There are many ways of coping with stress. Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman show
two main types of strategies – active and emotional coping. The first one is connected with
planning and active problem solving, the latter is connected with one’s emotions and better
mood. It is impossible to say which is best. The situation usually determines which strategy
is good. Every adult person, also College students, has to develop their own strategies.
Coping is defined as cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage demands in the environment
or oneself that one perceives to be stressful (Tavris & Wade, 1999, p. 546).
Tavris and Wade describe some effective ways of coping with stress. When people cannot
eliminate the stressors, they can distance themselves from the situation, rethink the problem
and say “my situation is not so bad”. If a student looses a girlfriend/boyfriend she/he can
think about it as an opportunity to meet a better and nicer one.
The distance is possible if we compare ourselves with a person who did worse. Failing
one’s exam may not be a tragedy when some colleague fails all the exams in the semester.
We have to remember to compare our situations with people’s whose situations are worse
than ours. The role of humor should also be underlined. Telling and listening to jokes brings
laughter and relaxation. Then our attention is diverted from the problems and allows us to
look critically at the event.
My typical questions during the course are: how do College students cope with stress and
what strategies do they use? The most common answers are: shopping, reading a good book,
meetings with friends, sports activities. Many students are aware of what helps them. There
are many simple methods of coping we can learn and use at school and work. From the set
of ways reducing the state of unpleasant strain, Berk (1998) recommends the ones called
“reevaluation of the situation”. The method allows for finding a difference between normal
emotional reactions and our irrational beliefs. We exaggerate very often because we do not
see the situation realistically. If we see the problem in the proper light and proportions we
see that the problem is not as difficult as previously perceived. Students’ normal states are
being nervous and aroused before an exam, during an exam, as well as before they know the
The next method recommended by Berk (1998) focuses on events we can control. Very
often we are not able to change a negative situation or the people who are the source of our
bad mood. The best thing is to look at life as fluid. With age, people are more aware that
The first descriptions of behavior in a situation of threat were made by an American
physiologist Walter Cannon (1929). Cannon observed an increase of physiological arousal
in a cat at the sight of a barking dog. The physiological changes are alarming and allow the
cat to make a “fight or flight” decision. A similar physical set of responses can be observed
in humans. People also experience an increased heart beat, shortness of breath, or nausea
following exposure to a significant stressor. The “fight or flight” response is necessary to
survive. Hans Selye (1977), a physician, continued Cannon’s work. He found that his patients
very often complained about the same physical symptoms – back pain, headaches, stomach
upset, etc. He claimed that the symptoms are the organism’s reaction to stress. Selye’s
theoretical model of the response, called General Adaptation Syndrome, shows the stages
of the organism’s response in the situation of attack by viruses, low or high temperatures,
as well as other harmful stressors. If the stressors are persistent and long-term, we feel sick
and even exhausted.
Some time later, Holmes and Rahe (1967) documented the idea that stress is a reaction to an
outside stimulus and more life changes trigger more health problems in people. The number
of life events and their range determines the physical state of humans, according to Holmes
and Rahe. The researchers made a popular list of common life events examining the amount
of stress experienced and its influence on one’s health.
In the 80s Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman (1984) popularized their transactional theory
of stress, showing that not only the range of the event is important but also the appraisal of
the event made by an individual. If an exam is evaluated as a threat we can expect worse
results. Then we evaluate the exam as a challenge. The feeling of control and the faith that
we are able to cope is a key to success.
What are students’ stressors?
we expect many things, good and bad. Students should learn that we should expect many
unexpected changes in life. Stress researchers suggest that regular aerobic exercise is a good
way of coping. A strong, flexible body is more resistant to stress. It is also good when students
are trained in relaxation techniques. Eastern techniques, like yoga or tai-chi, give very good
effects. Other techniques recommended concern constructive approaches to anger reduction.
The emotion of anger is known to be very destructive. Anger changes our mood and lets us
think negatively about other people. Sometimes we don’t know what we do because we are
blind from anger. In such a case seek a delay in responding and, e.g., try to count from 1 to
10. Do not tell your friend what you think about him, call him later!
Elizabeth Scott* suggests plenty of effective ways of reducing stress, specifically connected
with study. Being well organized seems essential for students. It means that setting up a
schedule for study and breaking up studies into smaller parts gives a feeling of control and
predictability. The next important thing is a learning style and study skills. Students differ in
their way of learning. Some of them are better in visual acquisition of knowledge; some are
auditory or kinesthetic learners. Practicing the special way of learning increases academic
success. Studying specific methods, study habits, improves memory and reading skills as
well as increases self-esteem and self-worth. However, special training is also needed, Scott
gives some simple advice, well documented in research, showing that a key for our good
mood is enough time for sleep. Sleep deprivation is harmful not only for our health but also
for remembering and performing.
At the end it is necessary to mention the function of social support. Social support is
defined as help we can get from other people. In the school environment the sources of help
are other students. Our parents and relatives are almost every time able to give support.
Teachers can also be a source of informational support: they explain and tell you what you
need. The College staff are people who are able to solve many students’ problems. Do not
forget about the very important role of asking for help. If you need help, you have to ask for
it (e.g., Kaniasty, 2003)!
Adler, J., How stress attacks you. Newsweek, 58-63 (1999, June 14)
Berk, L., Development through the lifespan. Allyn and Bacon (1998)
Cannon, W. B., Bodily changes in pain, hunger, fear and rage. Appleton (1929)
Frost, R. O., Marten, P. A., Lahart, C., & Rosenblate, R., The dimensions of perfectionism.
Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14, 449-468 (1990)
Holmes, T. H. & Rahe, R. H., The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Journal of
Psychosomatic Research, 11, 213-218 (1967)
Kaniasty, K., Klęska żywiołowa czy katastrofa społeczna? Psychospołeczne konsekwencje
polskiej powodzi 1997 roku. Gdańskie Wydawnictwo Psychologiczne (2003)
Lazarus, R. S. & Folkman S., Stress, appraisal, and coping. Springer (1984)
Renner, M. J., & Mackin, R. S. A life stress instrument for classroom use. Teaching of
Psychology 25, 46-48.
Selye, H., Stres okiełznany. Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (1997)
In conclusion it is necessary to admit that the research results cited above come from foreign
literature and do not concern specifically the stress of NKJO students. The situation shows
the lack of study conducted on the Polish population characterized by their own culture and
unique educational background. The interesting research questions which are worth answering
concern stressors as well as the ways of coping. Are the stressors specific or universal? Are the
ways of coping used effective? The answers allow for knowing about students’ psychological
health as a reaction to the College environment requirements. The key question in the research
program would focus on specific needs in the context of the possibility of getting help. There
are no doubts today that psychological health guarantees academic achievement.
Section A. Developing FL Skills
Stephen Dewsbury
• We aim to instil a spirit of team work in our students. We achieve this through group
work in class and assessed group projects.
Course description
First Year Conversation Classes and How to Survive Them
Conversation skills are an integral factor in student development at NKJO, Opole. Students
will take part in conversation classes throughout their three years of study. Conversation is an
active and dynamic subject that involves motivation and energy on behalf of the student and
teacher alike. The classes are an opportunity for students to practise their speaking skills with
their fellow colleagues under the guidance and observation of the teacher and are also as an
opportunity to practice conversing with their teacher who is most often a native speaker or an
experienced well-qualified graduate of English. Conversation classes allow students to explore
the interesting issues of the day, share experiences, tell stories, state opinions, play language
games and much more, all in the target language of English.
Our Aims
• We aim to motivate our students to want to speak English and we achieve that in a
number of ways. Firstly the content of the lessons are considered to be interesting topics
for discussion and so careful thought is put into selecting the topics, the latest speaking
materials are chosen from a variety of sources such as the latest textbooks, from internet
resources or from a self-created topic either by the teacher or by the students themselves.
Secondly the atmosphere of the classroom setting is taken into account in order to maximise
full interaction amongst students either by working in small group, through pair work or
through whole class discussions. However please note that most students at this advanced
level of English already have a degree of high motivation to speak English.
• We aim to give students a degree of lesson ownership rather than all lessons being fully
controlled by the teacher so conversation classes are more student-centred than teachercentred. This is achieved through pair and group work but notably more through assessed
individual student presentations and assessed group projects. Students are required to
make a presentation on a topic of their own choice in front of their class and a group
project is completed with the intention of reporting back to the class. The aims of both
the individual presentations and group projects are chiefly to promote discussion.
• We aim to improve students’ fluency levels. The balance of student speaking time as
compared to teacher talk time will clearly be weighted in the students’ favour.
• We aim to increase student confidence in spoken English. First year students are often
thrown in at the deep end in their first semester as they have the daunting task of making a
presentation to their group. Debates over controversial topics naturally motivate students
to voice their opinions, often loudly and confidently. There is also a policy to make sure
everyone has contributed to the discussion.
• We aim to explore the current issues of the day. In our ever changing world it is important for
students of this calibre of English to stay apace of the latest hot-button issues, controversies
and debates therefore the teaching materials chosen are often supplemented with more
material to increase the input of knowledge and to broaden the topic base.
First year conversation classes consist of between 15 and 20 advanced speakers of English
(or approaching that level) taking part in a variety of speaking activities led by an experienced
English language teacher (most often a native speaker). Each lesson lasts for 90 minutes and
that time is divided into a number of ways depending on the type of lesson. The usual format
consists of a warm-up speaking activity which is sometimes connected to the main topic of
discussion and is often a pair work exercise that will last for approximately five minutes. A
feedback session controlled by the teacher then takes place. Next, students are required to read,
listen, write about, watch or look at material about the main topic for discussion which will
involve teacher input in order to deliver a greater understanding of the presented material. The
teacher may draw students’ attention to unknown vocabulary, focus on grammatical structures,
elicit new words or phrases and clarify any pronunciation queries. The material presented at
this stage of the discussion is then talked about through a set of questions which are either
answered in pairs, small group or as a whole group. The main topic of discussion is explored
more deeply in the next stage when further questions are designed to bring the topic, closer to
home so to speak, by connecting the topic with either students’ own experiences or knowledge
of the subject matter within the students’ own country of Poland, or another social or cultural
environment. Once this has been addressed in pairs, group and as a whole class a post-activity
exercise is completed by students which can take the form of an oral questionnaire, a role-play
either in pairs or a group, a small group project or a further extended discussion.
Conversation classes consist of 15 lessons per semester and students receive a grade after
the successful completion of each semester. A grade on a scale of 2.0 to 5.0 is awarded based
on the student fulfilling all their requirements. In the first semester students will be assessed on
a presentation, class contribution and attendance. In the second semester you will be assessed
on a group project, class contribution and attendance. A grade on a scale of 2.0 to 5.0 is also
awarded for each component of the semester and an average is taken at grading time. There is no
exam in the first semester however there is an exam in the summer session where students will
be assessed by an exam commission of three teachers. The exam consists of students working
in pairs to interpret pictures through description or by comparing and contrasting. There is also
an extended discussion in the exam which is related to the topic which was introduced in the
picture interpretation.
Individual student presentations
In the first semester each student must give a presentation to their group which lasts for a
minimum of 5 minutes. Students are able to choose their own topic after consultation with the
teacher. Students are assessed on their ability to give a presentation in the following criteria;
grammar and vocabulary use, pronunciation and materials. The main objective is to present a
topic for discussion that will stimulate discussion in the rest of the class. This part of the lesson
lasts for an average 30 minutes. Some examples of topics chosen by students are as follows;
the advertising industry, anorexia, terrorism, fairy tales, feminism, racism, addictions, music,
abortion, the death penalty.
Group project
In the second semester the group are divided into four sub-group who have the task of giving a
group presentation. This presentation unlike semester one is initiated by the teacher and students
have a two week period to prepare and present their findings. The project often takes the form
of a small research project and involves preparation away from the classroom. Students are
assessed jointly on the following criteria of grammar and vocabulary, materials and teamwork.
Previous projects have involved giving a critical review of English language learning web sites
for children, giving a guided tour of the main British cities for tourists, performing a play and
a presentation about Poland.
Below you will find an example of some of the materials used in conversation class in order
to give any prospective future students an idea of the teaching materials we use in class.
Sample Topic: Neighbours from hell (from “Instant Discussions” by Richard MacAndrew,
that evening she had a barbecue in her garden and she kept shouting to us that she’d got some
lovely fish. I know they were our fish. She’s completely mad.”
The Thompsons want to move but are unable to sell their house while the feud continues.
They are now seeking £65.000 compensation from Miss Hill for the loss in value of their
home. “I can’t understand what the problem is.” protests Miss Hill. “I haven’t done anything
wrong. The Thompsons used to be quite friendly but now they’re just causing trouble.” The
case continues.
Discuss these questions in pairs or small group:
How do you think Miss Hill might try and show she has done nothing wrong?
If the Thompsons are correct, how do you think the judge should deal with the situation?
If you were in a situation like the Thompsons, would you go to court? Or would you try and
deal with the matter in a different way?
Tell a partner if you have ever had any of the following problems with a neighbour:
Exploring the topic
1. They were making too much noise.
2. They regularly held wild parties.
3. They left smelly rubbish on the street.
4. They lit bonfires in their gardens.
5. They threw rubbish on to your property.
6. They kept dangerous animals.
Discuss these questions in small group:
Tell your partner what happened and how you reacted. What would you do if a neighbour
did any of the things above?
Reading Preparation
Read the newspaper article and answer the questions below. What five things do the
Thompsons say that Miss Hill has done to annoy them?
1. What laws are there in your country governing relations between neighbours?
2. What happens in the following situations?
a. you want to build an extension on your house.
b. your neighbour puts up a new fence and ‘steals’ a few centimetres of your garden.
c. you want to put up a shed in your garden.
d. your neighbour has a dog that barks a lot during the day.
e. you want to go on your neighbour’s land to repair your house.
f. your neighbour paints his front door a horrible shade of bright orange.
g. your neighbour decides to keep pigs in his garden.
h. a tree in your neighbour’s garden starts to block off a lot of light from your house and garden.
Moving to Blades Farm deep in the shire countryside three years ago should have been a
dream come true for Bill and Glenda Thompson. But it was not to be. County Court heard
yesterday how arguments with their neighbour, Sharon Hill, 63, had led to a cycle of hatred
and violence.
At first the Thompsons found Miss Hill friendly, if slightly eccentric. However, a shared driveway
to both their houses soon led to the first disagreement. Miss Hill became increasingly unhelpful
about keeping the drive clear, often leaving her car parked there and forcing the Thompsons to
carry bags of shopping 50 metres to their house. This was followed by a dispute over land. When
Miss Hill replaced a fence between the two properties, the Thompsons accused her of stealing
a strip of land from them. A few weeks later she cut down a tree which the Thompsons allege
was theirs. She then bought a large Alsatian dog, which Mrs Thompson claims has attacked her
on more than one occasion.
“She knows I hate dogs,” said Mrs Thompson. “She doesn’t need one and only bought it to
frighten me.” The last straw came when some fish disappeared from a pond in the Thompsons’
garden. “We thought they could have been stolen by a cat or a bird,” said Mr Thompson, “but
Answer the questions below:
1. It is two o’clock in the morning and there is a very noisy party going on in a flat across
the street. You have to get up at six to catch a plane. Do you:
a. roll over and keep trying to get some sleep?
b. call the police?
c. go and join the party? (Well, missing four hours’ sleep isn’t too bad!)
d. do something else?
2. The new baby in the house next door often cries in the night. That’s not a problem. What
wakes you up is the father shouting at the baby. Do you:
a. ring social services and report him?
b. call the police and tell them?
c. talk to the baby’s mother and find out if everything’s OK?
d. do something else?
3. Your neighbour’s garden is a mess. It’s like a jungle – full of rubbish and rats. Do
a. ask him politely to do something about it?
b. report him to the local council.
c. wait till he goes on holiday and then buy some powerful weedkiller and rat poison?
d. do something else?
4. You are having a party in your garden one sunny summer’s afternoon and your neighbour,
who was invited to the party but didn’t come, decides to light a bonfire so that the smoke
blows over your garden. Do you:
a. take your guests inside and ignore your neighbour’s behaviour?
b. go round and ask him to put it out?
c. find your garden hose, lean over the fence and put it out yourself?
d. do something else?
What is important for the student?
In my opinion, it is most important for students to come to class with an attitude to contribute
positively to our discussions and to maintain a positive attitude towards their conversation
classes throughout the year. I am convinced that what constitutes being a successful student is
not pure academic ability but their attitude and approach to their studies. Students should not
be frightened of the way their English sounds, their incorrect grammatical constructions or use
of incorrect vocabulary but should instead be concerned with putting communication first, and
so a few tips on how to study English in my classes can be found below.
me with numerous organizing activities for my students. Keep Talking by Klippel (1984) who
has provided a great collection of fluency based activities. Creative Questions by Hess and
Pollard (1995) who have demonstrated the power of the interrogative for use in conversation
classes such as ours. Pilgrims Language Resource Books especially The Recipe Book edited by
Lindstromberg (1990) has provided many practical ideas for my lessons and without doubt the
Thomson Heinle series of discussion books: Instant Discussions (2003) by MacAndrew and
Taboos and Issues (2001) by MacAndrew and Martinez have given my conversation lessons
greater light-heartedness and access to some topics that I would not necessarily touch upon plus
better organisation and flow of activities than any other source to date.
I have recently been most impressed by the way students have conducted their individual
presentations and initiated interesting conversations based on producing well-thought out materials
which present the matter for discussion often as a reading exercise and then followed up with a
number of relevant questions for discussion. More often than not a presentation that leads to a
good discussion session is because of the originality of the chosen subject matter.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching conversation class is the fact that you hear so
many wonderful stories and experiences giving conversation classes additional colour. Another
enjoyable part of all of this is the sharing of cultures between myself as a native speaker of
British English and my Polish students who have taught me so much about their own country,
lives and traditions.
• Do not be afraid of making mistakes.
• Do not speak Polish when you are in a conversation class, even when you are whispering
or have a joke to tell. ☺
• Find a partner you are comfortable talking in English to and sit with them.
• Do not be shy.
• Tell stories and jokes in English.
• Experiment!
• Ask your teacher about next weeks conversation topic if you do not know.
• Stay up to date by reading and collecting English articles about the current issues of the
• Remember you can also speak English to your fellow students and teachers out of class.
Hess, N. & Pollard, L., Creative questions: Lively uses of the interrogative.
Longman (1995)
Klippel, F., Keep talking.. Cambridge University Press (1984)
Lindstromberg, S. (Ed.), The recipe book. Longman (1990)
MacAndrew, R., Instant Discussions. Thomson Heinle (2003)
MacAndrew, R. & Martinez, R., Taboos and Issues. Thomson Heinle (2001)
Ur, P. Discussions that Work. Task-centred fluency practice. Cambridge University
Press (1981)
Final remarks
My teacher training and standard methodology textbooks never introduced the idea of a 90
minute conversation lesson and so you can imagine how I felt when first given the opportunity to
conduct such a lesson. It has been a lesson in trial and error and is even still questioned by myself,
and colleagues alike, as to what exactly is required on our behalf. With this in mind I believe
that we are best served by our own students, who require us to listen and act upon their requests,
within reason, as to what is most suitable for their needs. A number of ELT methodologists have
also been at the heart of my lessons, notably the “Resource Books for Teachers”, a series of
methodology books that have enhanced my ability to adapt, extemporise and be more dynamic
with my students. Discussions that work, task-centred fluency practice by Ur (1981) has provided
Tadzio Lewandowski
Sample instruction sheet and material
Topic for discussion: ZELL KRAVINSKY
Conversation III at NKJO in Opole
NKJO Opole’s Conversation III is designed to make maximum use of available time,
allowing the students to improve their speaking skills as much as possible under controlled
circumstances. In order to achieve this, classroom time is divided into two main parts consisting
of approximately forty minutes each. The first part is a class discussion on a researched topic
led by a designated student, while the second consists of group work followed by feedback
and vocabulary practice, which close the lesson. This manner of allocating time has several
purposes that will be further discussed below, however, allowing the students ample opportunity
to speak remains the paramount concern.
Part I: Putting the students in charge with student-led discussions
Once a semester each student is responsible for leading a class discussion, for which they
receive a mark that accounts for 33.3 percent of their final semester grade. In the first part
of the school year not only are the topics designated by the teacher, but instruction sheets
along with relevant materials and questions to be covered are provided in order to shape and
control the boundaries of the discussions. In addition, students are also asked to do further
background research on their respective topics. Arranging for discussions led by students is
intended to shift the role of the teacher as main interlocutor onto the students, who take on
the burden of presenting and explaining the topic and eliciting responses, therefore gaining
teaching practice to some degree. Also, the fact that the students are required to research some
of the information they introduce allows them to improve their reading comprehension skills
with authentic texts, which they have to restate, explain, and convey in their own words. Here,
communicative abilities are improved because it is in the students best interest to be well
understood by those addressed. This process also puts them in contact with new vocabulary
(which they will later practice in class) and makes them a minor expert on the subject they
have been assigned. This is indeed essential because there will inevitably be questions asked
by the students concerning each given presentation topic. Since the student presenters are not
allowed copious use of notes during their presentations, the imperative to verse themselves on
the subject and memorize new vocabulary is a necessary consideration. In the first semester,
the material for these student-led class discussions is primarily drawn from current events
chosen by the teacher, which are either inherently interesting or easily debatable. In the second
semester, however, the students are allowed more freedom as to what they want to discuss and
how they want to organize it. What follows is an example of a first-semester, teacher-designed
activity that focuses on the real-life story of Zell Kravinsky, an American multi-millionaire
who gave away his fortune, and then one of his kidneys for the good of others.
In 2001 after making a multi-million-dollar fortune in the real estate business, American
philanthropist Zell Kravinsky decided to donate almost the entire amount to various charitable
causes, leaving himself and his family with only about $80,000 in the bank. Nonetheless, he
was still not done giving things away. Against the wishes of his family, he snuck out of his
house one morning and had his kidney removed and transplanted into a poor, black woman who
would have otherwise died. He of course makes no apologies for what he has done, and has
even gone so far as to label people with two kidneys “murderers” for not donating. Likewise,
he claims that no one should have two cars or houses while others have none.
Read the following interview with Zell Kravinsky and do addition research on his case,
making sure that you understand the facts surrounding his activities and that you can explain
his motives and philosophy to the class.
Websites where you can find information:
Interview with Zell Kravinsky
Aired August 18, 2003 - 20:55 ET
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: A Philadelphia millionaire who over the last few years has
donated $15 million to charity and one of his kidneys to a complete stranger is now talking
about giving up his other kidney. If allowed to do that, Zell Kravinsky would be taking altruism
to the point of death. With the reason behind the decision, he joins us now from Philadelphia.
Welcome doctor, glad to have you with us tonight.
ZAHN: I think a lot of people in our audience would view you as a hero for saving the life
of a very courageous young woman. But what they might not understand is why you would
be willing to end your own life by donating your second kidney. Can you help us understand
that tonight and the thinking that is going into that possible decision.
KRAVINSKY: I think in terms of maximum human utility, not in terms of my own life and
what I had said, I believe to a “New York Times” reporter was that if someone promised to
produce more good for the world, to save more lives or to bring more joy into the lives of
other families, and it required my kidney, then it would be logical for me to retain it. But that
person would have to demonstrate to me that he or she could bring about more joy or could
save more lives or in some way could benefit the world more than I could.
ZAHN: But you acknowledge that you still have the ability to make great contributions,
financially as you have to some very worthy causes over the years.
You still recognize that you’re able to contribute that way, don’t you?
KRAVINSKY: Well, my wife and I have given out $45 million and the supply is not infinite.
I think it’s – everyone who said to me you have given enough why don’t you stop. Why do
you need to give an organ. I think they’re missing the point that all of us are morally and
logically to give all we can in either direction.
ZAHN: You mentioned your wife, you also have four small children. What is your family’s
reaction to the possibility of your basically ending your own life if you find that right person
to donate your kidney to?
KRAVINSKY: I think they find that incomprehensible. I think they – I know they found the
first donation incomprehensible. At that point the risk I took on myself was merely one in
4,000, that’s the number who die donating kidneys. And the recipient was probably facing a
100 percent certainty of death without my kidney. So that to tell me not it take that risk was
to value my life at 4,000 times her life and I find that obscene and unacceptable.
ZAHN: But you do understand why some folks out there listening tonight might find it hard to
believe that you in essence would, I guess, suicide is a loaded word here, but that you would
end up being -- committing suicide to help save the life of another person.
KRAVINSKY: I love life, but all of your viewers, everyone in your audience would give their
lives for something. Most parents would give their life for their children. I’m drawing the
family circle wider and I am saying that – for instance, the recipient of my kidney, I think
she’s my sister even though she was a stranger. And the proof is that the kidney that sustained
me is sustaining her. And if we are genuinely all brothers and sisters, in that light, the sacrifice
I would make which seemed normal to any parent or any brother or sister.*
Begin your discussion by relating the story of Zell Kravinsky to the class in your own
words and without using notes. This should take 7 to 10 minutes. Be sure to cover these
questions and issues afterward:
Would you ever consider donating a kidney or other organ to a total stranger? Why, or why
Is Zell Kravinsky a madman or a saint?
What could be behind Zell’s decision?
What is your opinion of Zell’s philosophy, and what merit is there to it?
Do you agree at all with his beliefs about helping others?
Zell claims those of us who do not donate our kidneys are “murderers”, is he right on any
Has Zell done a disservice to his family?
What is Zell’s attitude towards wealth? Are his views correct? Why, or why not?
Would you like to have someone like Zell as a father?
Are Zell’s generous actions in a way selfish?
To close your discussion, reveal your own views on Zell Kravinsky to the class.
Grading and expectations
The grade the students receive for their presentations ranges from 2.0 to 5.0 and is based on
the following criteria: language competence and use of vocabulary, knowledge of the topic,
thoroughness in the initial explanation of the topic, and attempts to interact effectively with
the rest of the class and compel everyone to participate. The student may be helped in this last
requirement because not only they are being graded for this activity. Marks for participation
are also given to each student for the group discussion, indicating their level of participation,
along with willingness to discuss and help the presenter in his task. Pluses are given to those
students who are most active, while those who do not participate significantly receive no mark
at all. The number of pluses affects their final grade when it is calculated at the end of the
semester, with below 5 pluses equaling a 2,0, 5 to 6 pluses equaling a 3,0, 7 to 9 equaling a
3,5, 10 to 11 equaling a 4,0, 12 to 14 equaling a 4,5, and 15 equaling a 5,0. Therefore all the
students are encouraged to speak, making the presenter’s task easier. Since each student has
the knowledge that they will eventually be in the presenter’s proverbial shoes pushes them
to contribute fully, hoping that the favor will be returned in the future. The forty to forty-five
minute time limit for the group discussion also helps by keeping the class moving briskly and
eliminating any potential boredom with or exhaustion of the topic. Finally, this arrangement
also minimizes the role of the teacher in leading the discussion, freeing up more time for the
students to actively converse and practice their English. The teacher’s role is instead to correct
when needed, and take down errors made by the students for later discussion and further,
more detailed explanation at the end of the lesson.
Part II: Group work for maximum speaking practice
After the student presentation and class discussion has been completed, the students are
separated into three or four smaller group of four to five. This division into group allows the
students to choose with whom they would like to converse, and it is here that each student
has their opportunity to chat freely without the pressure of the whole class listening. This
group work section takes 30 to 35 minutes, which leaves time for the closing stage of the
lesson: error correction. The material given consists of various debatable topics that can be
discussed theoretically without prior knowledge or experience. The teacher provides this
material on handouts distributed to each group, who are expected to sustain the conversation
together while the teacher moves from group to group, monitoring, listening, taking down
errors, and joining in.
Sample Handouts:
Handout 1
Topic: Should it be banned in Poland?
Instructions: Read the following list of things that one should arguably be banned in Poland.
Consider them separately and discuss the pros and cons, as well as the reasons for banning each
Smoking in public places Marijuana
Military service
Abortion pills
Nudity on beaches Hitting children
Swearing in public
Handout 2
Topic: What would you do if you were the parent?
Instructions: Look at the following situations and explain how you would deal with them if
you were a parent. Be sure to agree or disagree with your partners’ ideas on coping with and
disciplining their imaginary children.
1. Your sixteen-year-old daughter tells you tomorrow she is getting a tattoo of a dolphin
on her shoulder.
2. Your five-year-old son is caught stealing a candy bar at a local store.
3. Your eleven-year-old daughter throws a fit when you refuse to let her watch a horror
movie on television.
4. Your nineteen-year-old son wants to spend the entire night out with his girlfriend on
prom night.
5. Your eight-year-old son asks for a popular but very violent computer game for
6. Your seventeen-year-old daughter asks if she can go camping with her friends, and
mentions that several boys will also be present.
The teacher’s roll in group work
The teacher’s role in these group discussions is more active than in the student-led class
discussion so as to give the students contact and interaction with a native speaker while still
speaking more than listening passively. This makes the teacher an equal participant in the
small, group discussions, rather than the primary interlocutor who dominates the conversation.
The teacher also has two more roles, just as in the class discussion: to correct, and take down
errors for later explanation. Just as in the first part of the Conversation class, the students are
also aware that they are being graded for participation during this group activity according
to the plus system detailed earlier. This amounts to a further impetuous to participate in this
less stressful environment.
Final remarks
The success of this way of organizing Conversation III is dependent on two factors: impressing
upon the students the need to participate and help one another as a team during individual
presentations, and insisting that the Conversation classroom be an “English Only Zone.” As to
the former, the students understanding this will help things greatly and increase participation,
while as to the later, this insistence will ensure that while the teacher is conversing with one
group, the others will not revert to their native tongue, therefore defeating the purpose of the
class. Hopefully through this organizational paradigm the students will be able to achieve
maximum utility from Conversation III, and use this limited and valuable time to their best
Error correction and vocabulary practice
While the teacher engages in immediate error correction to some degree, more emphasis
is placed taking down errors to be explained later, rather than interrupting the students with
corrections while they are trying to express their thoughts and ideas. With the 10 to 15 minutes
remaining at the end of class, the teacher lists the assorted errors the students have been
making on the board, and explains them in detail. Using this method, the students have the
opportunity to make notes and ask questions on every particular error, rather than trying to take
in split-second corrections while in the process of speaking. In addition, the students benefit
hearing the errors others have made explained. Finally, the students are encouraged to keep a
Conversation notebook that will include all the errors and explanations generated during the
year, which they will need for the end-of-the-semester tests. Likewise, new vocabulary that
has appeared in the presentation is listed on the board and explained. This is also followed by
completing short sets of teacher-prepared exercises including the new vocabulary items, in
the form of matching synonyms or antonyms, filling in the gaps, and/or completing sentences
with the use of the new words.
End of the semester tests and the final grade
At the end of each semester a test is given to ensure that the students have learned and
remembered how to correct the errors discussed in class. This test is not oral, but is comprised
of a list of sentences containing their errors, which the students correct on the test paper.
For example, if the typically Polish mistake concerning the phrase “to feel like” has
been repeated often by the students in, for example, sentences such as these: “I felt like in
Paradise.” or “I feel like in a cave.”, a similar sentence appears on the test, such as: “I feel
like in Heaven.” The students are then expected to put it into its correct form: “I feel like I
am in Heaven.” The length and content of the tests are therefore determined by the students’
own problem areas in English, as their point remains to check whether they have retained the
corrections given. Grades for the test are given, of course, on a scale from 2.0 to 5.0, and the
final semester grade is calculated as such: 33.3% for the presentation, 33.3% for participation,
and 33.3% for the end-of-the-semester test.
Anna Letowt-Vorbek
Practical Writing Course at NKJO
The original course in Practical Writing at NKJO, has evolved and been streamlined according
to how the students have responded to certain tasks and by listening to what they feel is useful
or important for them. The variety of styles and structures covered is also aimed at allowing
weaknesses any student may have for a particular style to be balanced by a strength in another.
For example, not everyone can be a good creative writer but most people can put together a
successful task in descriptive detail - perhaps an eye-witness report or physical description of a
person or thing in the form of a consumer review. The first and second year focus on preparing
students for their dissertations, that is on academic writing techniques and style. The third year
is divided into two courses, one in academic writing, and this one which focuses on construction
of practical and everyday documents. It is also designed to include some kind of project within
the course syllabus, rather than merely presenting a succession of topics and styles week after
week, and this is the purpose of a large part of the second semester focussing on formal letters,
job applications, character references and CV’s. With a project such as the CV, not only are
students learning how to present themselves when they enter the job market or applying to
remain in Further Education, but they are able to take away with them a well-prepared, organised,
standardised document which they can use as a basis for their CV in any future setting.
What about NKJO students and practical writing?
In the prologue to the publication of his ‘Strange Pilgrims’ collection of short stories, Gabriel
Garcia Marquez states:
The effort involved in writing a short story is as intense as beginning a novel, where everything
must be defined in the first paragraph: structure, tone, style, rhythm, length, and sometimes
even the personality of a character (1994, p. ix).
Whilst we don’t aim to teach you how to pen a nobel-winning creation, the same philosophy
is applied to the structured documents you will learn how to construct, whether this is a letter to
a friend, an eyewitness report or an application for a job in an English-speaking country. You’ll
soon realise that Marquez’s words hold true for all writing, along with consideration of your
purpose or motivation, your target audience and the function of the end-product.
and transitional words. Later, pre-writing techniques, such as listing, brainstorming and freewriting are dealt with. Having acquired this basic knowledge, students actually start writing
their own compositions. First, they learn some theory about the structure of a paragraph, and
they write a paragraph on a given topic. Finally, they do what is called “a movie project”. An
important director of contemporary artistic cinema is chosen, and one of their movies is watched.
Then students do research about the director and about the movie, finding and describing sources
according to MLA documentation style. The problem of plagiarism is discussed . The movie
project culminates in a 5 paragraph critique of a movie. First of all, the problem of insufficient
resources or problems accessing information are avoided where for example, students are not able
to read books on time because there might be only a few copies of a given title available. Then,
it is found that methods of critical reading can be applied to relatively easy and “unacademic”
The present syllabus and requirements
Ten pages of reading are required every week. Class participation includes in-class writing
and discussions. Credits for the class are given on the basis of active participation and successful
completion of written assignments given on a weekly basis.
In the first semester you will cover aspects of more complicated sentence structure and be
introduced to academic vocabulary. Towards the end of the semester you’re getting ready to write!
Consideration of paragraphing, composition, punctuation are the essential elements covered here
and you have the chance to practice them with specially designed writing assignments.
Taking things further in the second semester, students take different approaches to the writing
process and cover a few different styles – including freewriting, critique – and attention is
then placed on appropriate styles of introducing and concluding documents for academic
Second Year
During the 2nd Year, students are focussed more on argumentative and opinion styles, which
is aimed at preparing them for writing their thesis and as such could be classified as Academic
Writing, which then evolves into its own individual subject in the third year, independent of
the Practical Writing course.
Third Year
The function of the 1st Year course is to consolidate students’ knowledge of writing in English
and to prepare them for more complicated and targeted writing tasks, either of a practical or
academic nature. This is achieved through preparation of reading materials, in-class discussion
and tasks.
The syllabus includes aspects of grammatical and logical structure of sentences and paragraphs,
and focus on style and form applied to a variety of documents.
The course starts the course with a series of exercises designed to consolidate students’
knowledge of sentence patterns in English. First, 4 traditional sentence patterns are discussed,
and then run-ons and sentence fragments, paying special attention to the usage of joining words
Practical writing should not be confused with academic writing, as such they do not serve to
aim to achieve the same purpose, and are therefore taught separately. At this stage, we assume
that your skills are approaching those of Proficiency Level as required at the CPE.
As previously mentioned, the syllabus has been designed with as much flexibility in style and
structure as possible with a focus on topics that will be useful in the real world, such as report
writing, formal and informal letters, applications, and the CV project.
Whilst the 3rd Year course does not teach aspects of grammar and structure, students’ work is
checked and graded regularly so that they are able to improve through self-correction of errors
when a teacher-checked piece is returned, and to see their progress and hopefully improvement
with the awarding of grades for a minimum number of tasks to be completed by students. This
also makes it fairer when giving students’ semestral grades by allowing the teacher to take
an average of a student’s grades, assuming the student has submitted the minimum number
of required pieces, most students seem satisfied and give a positive opinion of such practice.
They also clearly understand what is expected of them in the final exam, and how the exam
First Year
is assessed, as I use exactly the same grading system in the process of checking coursework
assignments as for the final exam in June.
So far, the current syllabus looks as follows, with small adjustments being made to allow for
the reduced number of meetings with Extramural students:
In semester 5, you’ll be reminded about a few of the elements covered earlier on in the First
Year – the writing process, a review of punctuation and more specific grammar points; articles,
perfect tenses. The first task you will complete includes an exercise in error-checking. This
has been found to help students enormously when planning their time in preparation for the
final exams in the summer, and also allows them to practice the error-checking techniques
they might apply when teaching and marking their own students’ writing assignments. A few
different styles are covered here, practical documents such as reviews and reports, giving advice
and writing formal letters.
In semester 6 you undertake a compulsory, assessed and graded project which involves
developing and writing your very own CV. Due to the complexity of this document, the process
takes around 6 sessions from beginning to end, using the College Computer Lab, which allows
time for research and discussion of appropriate adjustments to detail, such as how to convert your
Maturation Exam scores to equivalent UK A Level, and utilising any aspect of your professional
or practical work experience, however insignificant it may appear. It’s also useful to include
letters of application and character references as these complement the CV project perfectly, so
this is what we do. Along with a few other styles to be covered, the last few weeks of the course
focus on intense exam practice, looking at sample questions, discussion of how they might be
answered within the time constraints of the 90 minute exam, and having some mock exams
which are graded to give you an idea of your performance prior to the exam session. This helps
students to focus on their weaknesses and build their confidence ready for the final exam.
Bibliography and references
Cory, H., Advanced writing with English in use. Oxford University Press (2002)
Crystal, D., The English language. Penguin (1990)
Crystal, D., The stories of English. Penguin (2005)
Evans, V., Successful writing. Proficiency. Express Publishing (2002)
Gude, K. & Duckworth, M.. Proficiency masterclass. Oxford University Press (2002)
Guth, H. P., New English handbook. Wadsworth (1982)
Guth, H. P., The writer’s agenda. The Wadsworth writer’s guide. Wadsworth (1989)
Harrison, M. & Kerr, R. Proficiency practice tests. Oxford University Press (1999)
Hedge, P., Writing. Oxford University Press (2001)
Hennessey, M., The Random House practice book for writers. Random House (1988).
Kenny, N. Sunderland, P. & Barnes, J. New proficiency passkey. MacMillan (2002)
Langan, J. Sentence Skills. A workbook for writers. McGraw-Hill (1990)
May, P. Towards proficiency. Oxford University Press (2002)
MacPherson, R., University English. Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne (1994)
Marquez, G. G., Strange pilgrims. Penguin (1994)
Side, R. & Wellman, G., Grammar and vocabulary for CAE and CPE. Longman (2002)
Swan, M., Practical English useage. Oxford University Press (1998)
Truss, L., Eats, shoots and leaves. Profile Books (2003)
Assessment criteria - common across all three years of the undergraduate course
Students are expected to demonstrate an acceptable standard of written English from FC in the
first year to Proficiency Level in the third year. This is assessed by written exams and in part by
evaluation of practical work undertaken and produced throughout the duration of the academic
year. Students are allowed two unjustified absences in a semester. If they do not fulfil these
requirements, they will not be able to achieve credit at the end of the semester.
The scale of gradation ranges from 2 - failure to 6 - excellent:
2.0 - failure; 3.0 - satisfactory; 3.5 - plus satisfactory; 4.0 - good; 4.5 - plus good;
5.0 - very good; 6.0 - excellent.
To conclude, the idea of the Practical Writing Course at NKJO aims to improve students’
structural and grammatical content of a variety of documents and styles, with specific focus in
the First Year, refinement and development in the Second Year, and further practice in the Third
Year. We think the students get as much from this course as we do from teaching it.
Aneta Bojarska
Listening Comprehension
Studies at NKJO include a block of Practical Studies of English (PNJA – Praktyczna
Nauka Języka Angielskiego), which consists of:
All these subjects form a system of intensive language studies and are run for all three
years of study in our College. Each course is scheduled for two hours a week – thirty hours a
semester (15 weeks). Such system gives our students ten hours of just pure language learning
every week, which comes to 150 hours each semester, and 300 hours total each year. Being
exposed to such a great number of hours of language study, our students are bound to master
the language to the level of proficiency when they have completed year 3, and are ready for
their teaching jobs as well as continuing education at university for the degree of Master of
Arts, should they wish to do so.
The system of our students’ development is clear and consistent. We run Entrance Exams at
the level of Cambridge First Certificate so during the first year students are taken to the level
which is called in our College ‘FC+’. The level is not much higher than the one that our students
are accepted at NKJO with, however, such policy allows for ironing out any discrepancies in
the command of English that our students present in their first year. Year 1 finishes with PNJA
exams which are at the level of ‘FC+’.
Next there is a ‘huge leap’ to year 2 - the level of Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English
which is three quarters of the way between FC (First Certificate)- the basic level, and CPE
(Cambridge Proficiency in English) – the target level. Our students have to work harder in year
2 but are left with only one quarter of the ‘journey’ left to complete in year three, which is good
as then they are much busier with writing their diploma papers and seminars.
Teaching LISTENING COMPREHENSION follows the same, above mentioned stages.
The end-of-year exams match the level and format of Cambridge exams, and so our students’
practice and development are based on Cambridge exam practice tests, as well. As LISTENING
COMPREHENSION is not knowledge but a skill, the well known saying: ‘practice makes
perfect’ seems to be the best idea of development in this respect. During each class students
‘take’ listening comprehension tests, check and analyse answers and mistakes, and compare
their results against their previous tests, thus closely monitoring their own progress.
In order to ‘listen well’ students are provided with a variety of task types focusing on:
- understanding the gist of a spoken text and its overall function and message,
example CPE multiple-choice question :
Which word best sums up Trevor’s personality?
A/ conventional; B/ outrageous; C/ diverse; D/ adventurous
following the significant points, even though a few words may be unknown,
example CAE True/False question:
Businesses will increasingly seek to appoint more graduates
to managerial positions…………………………………………………..T / F
selecting specific information from a spoken text,
example FCE gap-filling question:
Fill in the relevant information:
Date of this month’s publication
recognising tone and attitude of the speaker,
example CPE multiple-choice question:
When David concludes that ‘Clouds May Care’ is “quite an achievement” he is being:
A/ sincere B/ humorous C/ bitter D/ sarcastic
understanding points of detail in a spoken text,
example FCE multiple-matching question :
You will hear five people talking about businesses that they run. Choose from the list of
businesses A –F what each speaker is describing. Use letters only once. There is one
extra letter which you do not need to use.
Speaker 1 …… Speaker 2 …… Speaker 3 …… Speaker 4 …… Speaker 5 ……
A/ a bookshop
B/ a driving school
C/ an antique shop
D/ a fitness centre E/ a travel agency
F/ a computer shop
Tasks types differ according to the year, students’ level and type of exam.
In year 1 students develop the skill to the level of ‘FC+’ by doing usually ‘Paper 4 – Listening’
tests of the ‘First Certificate in English’ exam, which means that the types of tasks include
(for examples see tasks types above):
- three-option multiple choice where students choose the best alternative from three options
to show understanding of the recording,
- note-taking/gap filling where students must write a word or short phrase to complete
questions; some questions take the form of incomplete notes, while others are summary
sentences with blanks to be filled,
- true/false, yes/no questions
- multiple matching where students listen to short passages all about the same topic and
match what they hear to a list of prompts on the question paper.
The recorded material may be a monologue or a conversation, usually involving two or three
people, which is heard twice. The texts are spoken in standard English, in a range of native
speaker accents and could be delivered in the form of, e.g. conversations between friends,
public address, radio journalism, etc., allowing a wide range of genre, topic, register, etc.,
to be included.
In year 2 students make progress via practicing ‘Paper 4 – Listening’ of the Cambridge
Advanced English Examination where text understanding is usually checked through the
following tasks (for examples see task types above):
- sentence completion/gap filling, or note taking – students are required to complete a set
of notes or sentence; answers can be numbers, single words or short phrases, usually of
no more than three words,
- multiple choice – students select the correct option from a choice of four
multiple matching – here five short extracts are related in some way, for each speaker
there are two separate tasks, and for each task students are required to select the correct
option from a choice of eight
Practice material at this level focuses on different kinds of spoken English such as monologues
or dialogues, formal or informal conversations, public announcements or private messages.
The language is standard English in terms of grammar and vocabulary, sometimes with a
slight accent, however, ‘distractors’ might be heard, i.e. words or ideas which might mislead
students into choosing wrong answers.
In year 3 students practice ‘Paper 4 – Listening’ of The Cambridge Proficiency Exam which
contains a variety of tasks such as (for examples see task types above):
- four-option multiple choice questions,
- note taking/short answer/gap filling tasks,
- True/False, Yes/No options.
The aim is to develop students’ ability to understand not only facts and information but also
attitudes and opinions of the speakers. In the recordings there may by one or more speakers
presenting a variety of accents, and speech is close to or at the speed of native speakers.
Pieces include broadcasts, interviews, conversations, talks, announcements, sound effects,
distractions, etc.
To sum up, the graded difficulty approach, which is exercised at our NKJO, as well as
the great number of practice classes ensure maximum learning efficiency and best results in
terms of students’ progress, both in LISTENING COMPREHENSION and in other practical
studies subjects.
Evans, V. & Milton, J., FCE listening and speaking skills for the revised Cambridge FCE
Examination 2. Express Publishing (1998)
Kenny, N., First certificate passkey. Heinemann (1996)
First Certificate in English: handbook. University of Cambridge Local Examinations
Syndicate (1996)
O’Connell, S., Focus on: Advanced English C.A.E. Longman (2001)
Norris, R., Ready for CAE. Macmillan (2004)
Evans, V. & Scott, S., Listening and speaking skills 1 for the Cambridge Proficiency Exam.
Express Publishing (1998)
Harrison, M., Proficiency testbuilder. Heinemann (1994)
Evans, V. & Dooley, J., Upstream proficiency. Express Publishing (2002)
Section B. Focus and Methodology
Magdalena Szyszka
Further sessions in the semester are devoted to teaching receptive skills – reading and
listening. After the introductory presentation and workshop sessions students prepare short
presentations on exploiting both written and oral texts in an English lesson.
Course objectives
Methodology of TEFL – 2nd Year Course
Course description
The two-semester course is part of the whole comprehensive module on Methodology
of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It is the continuation of the introduction to the
practice of English language teaching: Theory of Teaching and Learning Course, and focuses on
achieving high standards of professionalism by our students through the practical application
of English language teaching techniques, developing teaching skills, promoting creativity and
Teacher trainees are already familiar with general issues about teaching and learning and this
course gives several opportunities not only to deepen their knowledge but most of all to put it
into practice. Therefore, throughout the course students are frequently encouraged and guided
to prepare mini-presentations and micro-teaching activities. They also develop their skills by
observing either real or video-taped lessons and discussing different aspects of an English lesson,
e.g. class management, instruction giving, presentation skills and lesson planning.
The course starts with introducing some elementary presentation skills useful in the classroom.
Then it focuses on effective techniques of presenting vocabulary and grammar. Teacher trainees
prepare short presentations on the above subjects, where they are encouraged to use their own
teaching materials for the presentations. The next step is analysing and creating practice activities
appropriate for the preceding presentations. Students also pay attention to how controlled practice
activities are followed by freer ones.
In the middle of the semester students develop their lesson planning skills. They discuss
the importance of this process and the aspects which are necessary to be taken into account.
Effective lesson planning allows a teacher trainee to release stress before the lesson and provides
clear guidelines on what she/he wants to achieve in the lesson and how. Students are guided to
write lesson plans.
Before going to schools for the Block Teaching Practice, teacher trainees observe a lesson
and analyse it from the point of view of instruction giving. They also discuss the problem of
discipline and class control.
The next semester starts with the Block Teaching Practice, which is described in a separate
chapter. Before going to schools students are given a task to prepare their Block Teaching
Practice (BTP) folio, which consists of:
− a description of the class the students choose for their folio group
− a sequence of 6 lesson plans with post lesson observation notes
− a report on project work
After their BTP teacher trainees have a sharing experience session in which they have
opportunities to give feedback on their observing and teaching experiences.
The course provides opportunities to develop teacher trainees’ professional skills. It is
designed to train students to become EFL teachers who are familiar with the principles of
lesson planning,
giving effective presentations and instructions,
providing appropriate practice activities,
activating learners at the production stage of a lesson,
dealing with indiscipline in the classroom,
introducing and developing receptive skills in a lesson.
The course’s objective is also
to promote a positive attitude towards the teaching profession,
to encourage students’ learning through doing,
to develop students’ study and research skills that are crucial for their,
future teaching career,
to prepare teacher trainees for their first Block Teaching Practice at schools.
Assessment is a continuous process over the duration of the course. Students will be expected
to demonstrate involvement and evidence of individual development.
This will be assessed on the basis of:
Lesson plans
Mid-term Test
BTP folio
1. Attendance:
Teacher trainees are required to attend all the sessions. The college regulations allow two
unexcused absences per semester. Students are obliged to attend the sessions for the whole
1.5 hours.
2. Participation:
Students are expected to participate in the classes. They share their thoughts and ideas,
give explanations, examples and make comments. They are rewarded for this with so called
‘participation pluses’. The more pluses they obtain the better. It is crucial to participate in
classroom discussions and activities and aim at individual development.
3. Mini-presentations:
Students are required to prepare short ten-minute presentations and/or micro-teaching
activities of a similar length designed for the particular learning style, level of English and age
of students. Both the tutor and peers take notes and give feedback on the presentations, which
they assess in accordance with the guidelines referring to e.g. suitability for a given level,
effectiveness of teaching techniques, timing and presentation skills. Mini-presentations allow
students to develop their teaching skills in a non-threatening, encouraging environment.
4. Lesson plans
Before going to BTP in March teacher trainees are required to write a detailed lesson plan
using the guidelines discussed earlier in the sessions. Lesson plans are assessed on the basis of
the criteria comprising the guidelines given and a ‘pass’ grade is required. In case of failure,
students are allowed to write one more lesson plan.
5. Mid-term test
Students are required to pass a written test with at least 60 % pass mark at the end of each
semester. They are allowed to write only one make-up test.
6. BTP folio
The BTP folio is a collection of tasks given to students before their first BTP. It consists
a) a description of the class students choose for their folio group
b) a sequence of 6 lesson plans with post lesson observation notes
c) a report on project work
After the BTP the tutor collects the folios and assesses them by giving one mark for lesson
plans and a class description and another one for a report on project work.
Harmer, 1991). Students analyse, discuss and finally create their own activities for a specific
target group of learners.
Module 4
Students are familiarised with important aspects of lesson planning. They raise their awareness
of the pre-planning considerations and decisions (Harmer, 1991), they discuss essential elements
of a lesson plan, analyse a few and design their own ones (Tanner & Green, 1998; Brown,
1994). While planning they consider, among others, the following questions. What is important
before planning a lesson (Harmer, 1991)? What needs to be planned and how? How to plan
instruction giving (Ur, 1996)? How to avoid discipline problems (Brown, 1994; Ur, 1996)?
Semester 4
Module 5
Students practise their teaching skills at the local primary and “gimnazjum” schools during
their first Block Teaching Practice, which covers 40 hours of lesson observation and 35 hours
of teaching.
Module 6
Students learn how to teach one of the receptive skills – listening (Harmer, 1991). They are
presented with a variety of techniques for teaching listening (Komorowska, 1999; Tanner &
Green, 1998) and plan a lesson with a listening text also giving mini-presentations.
Module 7
Course Outline
The course consists of 60 hours divided into four modules in the third semester and three
modules in the fourth semester.
Semester 3
Students are introduced how to teach another receptive skill – reading (Tanner & Green, 1998).
They consider how to exploit a reading text effectively, what techniques and approaches are
best for different learners and how to select a text for a particular level and age (Komorowska,
1999; Brown, 1994; Ur, 1996; Harmer, 1991).
Module 1
In this module the idea of a presentation as a stage in an English lesson is introduced. There
are different elements and aspects of effective presentations introduced (Ur 1996). Students
discuss what makes an effective presentation in a lesson and list teachers’ actions which should
be avoided in the classroom. Students are familiarised with different techniques of introducing
and presenting vocabulary (Tanner & Green, 1998). Finally, they give mini-presentations.
Module 2
This module is devoted to introducing grammar in a lesson. Two approaches to grammar
presentation are discussed: inductive and deductive (Thornbury, 1999; Harmer, 1991). Students
observe and comment upon a grammar based video lesson (Observing English Lessons 1997).
This module finishes with students’ presentations of selected aspects of grammar chosen for
a specified age and level.
Module 3
Students focus on different stages of a lesson: Presentation, Practice and Production. They
are introduced with a range of activities which are to be designed as either practising newly
introduced material or producing the target language in a motivating way (Ur, 1996; Doff, 1988;
Brown, H. D., Teaching by principles. Prentice Hall Regents (1994)
Brown, H. D., Principles of language learning and teaching. Prentice Hall Regents (1994)
Doff, A., Teach English. Cambridge University Press (1998)
Harmer, J., The practice of English language teaching. Longman (1991)
Harmer, J., How to teach English. Longman (1991)
Komorowska, H., Metodyka nauczania języków obcych. WSiP (1999)
Tanner, R. & Green, C., Tasks for teacher education. Longman (1998)
Thornbury, S., How to teach grammar. Pearson Education (1999)
Ur, P., A Course in language teaching. Cambridge University Press (1996)
Video Lessons:
Karaś, K., Bogucka, M., Czaja, Z., Kryszewska, H., Niemaszek, Z. & Ściepurko, H.,
Observing English Lessons, University Center of English Teaching (1997)
Class Handout 1
Answer YES or NO
Is there a variety of activities used?
Is there a variety of teaching aids used?
Are there enough activities planned for a lesson?
Are there activities activating Ls (e.g. pair work, group work)?
Watch the presentation and answer the following questions:
1. What are the vocabulary presentation techniques?
a. ...............................................
b. ...............................................
c. ...............................................
d. ...............................................
2. Are they appropriate for
a. the level of the group? Why/why not? ..............................
b. the age of the group? Why/why not? .................................
c. the vocabulary item? Why/why not? .........................................................
3. Is spelling presented on the BB? Is it clear and neat?
4. Is pronunciation presented? How?
5. Is the vocabulary item presented in context to reinforce memorization?
6. Are the vocabulary items repeated by
a. the teacher?
b. the students – chorally?
c. the students – individually?
Are the activities attractive for Learners?
Is presentation appropriate for the age and level?
Is the language for instructions effective (consider age and level of Ls,
choice between L1 and L2)?
Are instructions given before grouping and/or distributing materials?
Is timing well-balanced?
Is monitoring and Teacher’s help emphasized?
Is praising Ls emphasized?
Class Handout 2
Read a lesson plan and evaluate it by ticking an appropriate column.
Clearly Unclearly
Not stated
General lesson aim/s
Specific lesson aims
Activities which reflect specific aims
Grammar structures to be taught
Vocabulary items to be taught
Language functions to be taught
Language skills to be developed
Revision of the previous lesson
Revision of the structures necessary for introducing new
Teaching aids and materials
Warm-up activity at the beginning of a lesson
Situational context for the whole lesson
Situational context for the presentation stage
Smooth transitions from one stage of a lesson to the other
Teacher’s instructions quoted
Timing of stages
Grouping of Learners
Additional activities
Anticipated problems
Solutions to problems
Lesson plans:
Pictures for your lessons:
Teaching listening:
Listening quizzes:
For teachers:
Małgorzata Adams-Tukiendorf
Methodology: How Do I Know They Are Learning?
What is methodology?
Methodology of foreign language teaching is an integral part of language pedagogy, known also
as Glottodidactics. It includes a variety of aspects connected with language learning and teaching
such as theories and approaches to language acquisition, principles of language teaching, training
teachers, preparing teaching materials, etc. Generally speaking, teaching a language involves aspects
and activities that are rooted in other branches of knowledge like, for instance, linguistics, psychology,
pedagogy, sociology, and their variations (socio-linguistics, neurolinguistics, psycholinguistics). Thus,
the study of methodology is rather cross-sectional, introducing concepts from related branches that
meet in the context of language pedagogy.
Course in methodology
Lectures in methodology are spread over four semesters (2nd and 3rd year of study) and cover
altogether 120 contact hours.
The main goal of the theoretical course is to prepare students of English to become teachers of that
language, qualified to work with learners of different ages and on different proficiency levels. Having
in mind the rich Polish educational context, from which I draw many examples, I prepare lectures
to familiarize students with the main trends in the field of second language acquisition methodology
and research. My belief is that by knowing how language is acquired and processed, what possible
individual differences may stand behind learners’ actions and what practical methods and techniques
can be used in a classroom context, future teachers may be better equipped to work confidently and
efficiently. The more they understand the underlying processes and motifs the better they will be able
to adjust their teaching methods and techniques to particular situations in their classroom context.
Course description
The course is divided into four cohesive parts covered usually in given semesters. Years of practice
and observation led me to arrange it in the following sequence:
Semester 3 – Methods and approaches to second language teaching;
Semester 4 – Theory of language acquisition (FLA and SLA theories and research)
Semester 5 – Individual differences between learners (elements of psychology)
Semester 6 – Mental processes involved in language learning (elements of psycholinguistics)
Methods and approaches to second language teaching
We start the course with fairly practical issues of language teaching in a classroom context. Learning
about various methods and techniques characteristic for these methods gives students a feeling of
familiarity. They can immediately refer to their own experience of language learning – recognizing
elements of particular methods or specific techniques used by their teachers. Usually these memories
are quite strong and students are glad to realize that whatever their teacher was doing in the classroom
was deeply rooted in the theory of language teaching.
During the semester I present from eight to ten methods – one every lecture. I start with the oldest
Grammar–Translation Method, which is based on the ancient procedure of teaching Latin, but to my
students’ surprise it is still quite common among teachers of English nowadays. I myself remember
my teacher using Polish all the time, asking us to translate whole sentences which had no reference to
the reality outside the classroom and to memorize grammar rules and vocabulary items in the form of
lists. Then we were asked in front of the class what we remembered or we were tested in writing.
The second method in my programme is the Direct Method, which presents the language with quite
the opposite techniques. Here learners are asked a lot of questions in English and are encouraged to ask
their own questions; they also work on pronunciation and learn the language by direct association of
words with the objects they denote. Although it is an old method dating back to the 19th century, Direct
Method techniques are frequently suggested in modern English coursebooks for various levels.
Audio-Lingual Method – the third on the list, has an interesting history. It started as a method
created for US soldiers fighting in WW II. Giving brilliant results, it was later adapted for regular
learners and regular classes. Language drills used as a main technique and the idea that frequent
repetition of whole dialogues leads to successful learning matched behaviourist views dominant at
that time (1940s-1950s). Although the method gave way to more humanistic approaches that started
to rise in the 60s and 70s, we can observe its comeback today in the form of Callan Method.
The humanistic methods have a general focus on the learner, which makes them different from the
previous methods. Apart from teaching language for communication, each of these methods tries to
lower the psychological barriers that learners bring to the classroom. Total Physical Response uses
movement – a non-verbal type of response, as a starting point. Silent Way relies on the learners’
intelligence and responsibility and through eliciting encourages logical thinking, guessing and selfmonitoring. Community Language Learning treats learners as whole persons, taking into consideration
their knowledge, cognitive maturity and possible psychological blocks. Suggestopedia uses background
music, peripheral learning and positive feedback as strong tools to desuggest psychological barriers
while Communicative Language Teaching creates a realistic sociolinguistic context which is realized
in the classroom in role-plays. Learners practice language on various levels of formality and prepare
to function in real life situations, which is very motivating.
Such an introduction to methodology is very practical. Students start with something they can
understand easily as the techniques they learn about turn out to be already very familiar. The main
gain is that students start to see them in a bigger context of methods and approaches.
Theory of language acquisition (FLA and SLA theories and research)
The second section goes deeper into language teaching and provides students with information on
specific language acquisition theories from which particular methods have been derived. Again at this
point students see interconnections – knowing methods, they can easily understand the underlying
I use first language acquisition theories as a background for understanding second acquisition
theories. I introduce Behaviourist, Innatist, and Interactionist views. I mention Skinner, Chomsky and
Lennerberg, as well as Piaget and Vygotsky. I explain the concept of operant conditioning, language
acquisition device, critical period hypothesis, and caretaker talk. I show stages of child development
in detail, pointing to language acquisition as dependent not only on inborn individual characteristics
of children but also on the influence of the natural environment in which they grow.
Making students realize how they acquired their first language, I build a basis for the understanding
of second language acquisition. Again I start chronologically with behaviourism and language as habit
formation, making a reference to the Audio-Lingual Method. Then I proceed to the cognitive views of
Krashen and other innatists who claim language learning and acquisition are two different notions and
who explain second language acquisition through a creative construction theory (learners construct
internal representations of the language being learned in the form of mental pictures of the target language
which develop in predictable stages into the full L2 system). McLaughlin’s information-processing, on
the other hand, focuses on the concepts of controlled processing, restructuring and automatisation. It
also explains the notion of fossilisation in the context of erroneous forms becoming automatic before
they are native-like. Finally, I talk about Long’s interactionist views with the concept of foreigner
talk as the main idea and Schumann’s socio-linguistic perspective considering the psychological and
social factors responsible for lack of language development as revealed in pidgin English.
I finish with an outline of cognitive, affective and linguistic principles of language teaching, which
serves as a preview to the next section. Having their BTP in the meantime, students can immediately
recognize how the information they learn during the lectures is revealed on a practical level – in the
Individual differences between learners (elements of psychology)
The third section is to help students become more conscious of various factors that stand behind
success or lack of it in language learning of individual learners. My standard procedure is to analyse
my students’ own profiles as learners and then proceed with more general discussion of learner
differences and how they affect language learning.
I make students aware of how powerful motivation to language learning can be and that they can be
motivated either internally or externally, with the goal to integrate with the target language community
or simply to get a good job and ensure a successful career. During particular sessions they realize how
they process information (learner styles; hemisphere dominance), how they approach problem-solving
(multiple intelligences), what their personality profile is, and what learning strategies they use when
learning. Finally they focus on learner differences related to age and proficiency levels.
Understanding their own preferences as learners, students become aware that this may affect
their own choices as teachers regarding ways of presenting new material, techniques of organizing
classroom work, tasks for further language practice, types of feedback, types of tests, and other.
Recognizing and appreciating individuality of learners becomes their priority, which should lead
later to adjusting their way of teaching to the needs and preferences of their own learners.
Mental processes involved in language learning (elements of psycholinguistics)
Finally, in the last semester, the lectures are directed towards the most abstract concepts of language
learning, namely the chosen mental processes involved in this activity. Understanding these processes
is vital to successful language teaching as they provide explanation of such common phenomena as
temporary nature of learners’ competence (interlanguage), or errors and mistakes in their performance
(speech planning and production; error analysis; fossilisation). Among the proposed topics students
seem to enjoy the most those that give them ideas on practical application of the theoretical concepts.
For instance, they value the information on the role of non-verbal communication (body language,
object language, environmental language), the way the human brain processes input, especially
language, the way memory works (natural memory and deliberate memory), or symptoms of dyslexia
and other disabilities that nowadays draw a lot of attention from teachers, parents and learners
themselves. Understanding how the human brain functions can help future teachers understand the
mental processes involved in language learning and prepare for meeting various challenges that
reveal themselves in the language classroom.
Practical activities
As this is a lecture format I do not usually propose any particular tasks, however, with all the lectures
there come specific examples of real life situations that illustrate particular issues under discussion. I
also try to engage students personally, encouraging them to find in their own experience something
that might be an illustration of the problem. For instance, when talking about learner differences I
suggest that my students become more conscious of what type of learner profile they match – they find
this quite interesting to realize their learning style, hemisphere dominance or dominant intelligence
type. When lecturing about language teaching methods or presenting particular theories of language
acquisition, I always ask questions referring to my students’ own experience and observation. Personal
involvement helps them understand the issue under discussion better and remember it longer.
What is the most important for my students?
I believe that those who study methodology of English as a foreign language need to see the relevance
of the theory – they need to see how the theory is realized in the real life of the classroom context.
The next step is to use that theory in becoming a better teacher – a modern teacher of English.
How to study the subject?
My personal advice here is to come to the sessions. First of all, the lectures give the essence; they
focus on the most important aspects of a particular topic. I start by eliciting what students already
know on the topic, thus activating their prior knowledge. The reason is to stress the fact that they
know a lot right at the beginning of the meeting. I make sure that all the new concepts are clear and
emphasize that they are always interrelated with more familiar concepts introduced earlier – this
serves as a mental hook and is at the same time a great opportunity to revise various bits of material
and strengthen their recall. Moreover, each lecture is full of memorable examples from real life,
which again helps to internalise the new knowledge. Realizing the value of creating optimal learning
conditions myself, I guarantee a relaxed but attentive atmosphere with plenty of elements of fun.
Of course, students may choose not to come to the lectures. Then my suggestion is to start with
studying core books in methodology, which the reader will find in the reference section. Still the
lectures themselves are richer as I like to use various sources to illustrate the themes discussed.
At the end of each semester students are required to pass a test that consolidates knowledge of
the theoretical aspects discussed during lectures. Also after the first and the second year of study of
the subject, students need to pass a formal exam. They need to collect 61% of all the points to be
successful. Additionally, I suggest optional assignments for those students who are really interested
in the subject and who want to receive a higher grade. For instance, it may be a written review of 6-8
reading texts in one topic area, an argumentative essay on one method (“If I were a teacher I would
follow .... method, because...”), or a short essay (4-5 pages) on a chosen topic.
My experience in teaching the subject?
Lectures in methodology are quite fulfilling for me as a teacher. I think I like them more and
more every year. When I started some 10 years ago, my lectures were based entirely on two/three
chosen sources – I strictly followed the lines of presentation from these books. At the beginning that
at least ensured a good organization and clarity of ideas during my sessions. With time, however, I
started to include other sources as well, especially the ones that are not that easily found in Polish
libraries. I would order books – as I am a bookworm and cannot resist having my own copies – and
immediately incorporate the latest ideas into my lectures.
I can say that every time I need to lecture again on a certain theme – having new students, I change
the content slightly, use different examples, add some points, revise or even completely abandon those
which I find at the moment not that important for the general understanding of the main aspects. I
know that I learn together with my students – thanks to their experiences and observations and their
feedback during the sessions, I can see a familiar issue from a new, fresh perspective, which is very
enriching for me. I value my students’ opinions and welcome any critical comments. Still, the most
satisfying is seeing students come to my lectures every week.
Brown, H. D., Principles of language learning and teaching. 3th ed. Longman (1994)
Brown, H. D., Principles of language learning and teaching. 4th ed. Longman (2000)
Larsen-Freeman, D., Techniques and principles in language learning. Oxford University
Press (1986)
Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N., How languages are learned. Oxford University Press (1995)
Littlewood, W., Foreign and second language learning. Cambridge University Press (1990)
Mitchell, R., & Myles, F., Second language learning theories. Arnold (1998)
Richards, J. & Rodgers, T., Approaches and methods in language teaching. 2nd ed. Cambridge
University Press (2001)
Barbara Jaroszewicz
The course outline
Teaching English to Young Learners – 2nd Year Classes
Bearing in mind the growing interest in teaching foreign languages to younger children,
teacher training colleges have attempted to cater for that need. The course in ‘Teaching English
to Young Learners’ is designed as a part of the Methodology module for second year Teacher
Training College students. It is a two-semester course comprising 30 teaching hours per
semester, 60 hours in total. Classes take the form of practical workshops where students are
actively involved in developing their teaching skills. Apart from classes at the College trainees
visit local primary schools and observe experienced young learner teachers at their lessons.
After such visits, feedback and reflection sessions are organized during classes in the College
when the observed lesson is analyzed and conclusions are drawn. Students are surprised by the
enthusiasm, curiosity and spontaneity of the children they meet at those lessons and admit they
it requires, a warm heart, a lot of patience, flexibility creativity and specific skills and materials
to teach English to children.
Course objectives:
The overall aim of the course is to prepare the trainees to work effectively in the young learner
classroom. In order to achieve this aim, trainees need to become acquainted with the process
of cognitive development of a child as well as its social and emotional needs. Young learners
are children aged between 5 – 12, that is children beginning their education in the so-called
pre-school group following through grades 1 – 5 of Primary School.
After accomplishing the course the trainee should:
o be accustomed with the basic background psychological knowledge of young learners’
characteristics and needs
o be able to relate this knowledge to a practical solution in the classroom
o be able to support the child’s social and emotional growth as well as language
o be skilled at useful teaching techniques and activity types to be applied in the classroom
o be able to select, evaluate and design materials for teaching young learners
o be familiar with the primary school curriculum
o be capable of reflecting on the learning-teaching process
o be efficient at the management of the primary school classroom
Primary teachers-to-be should also know language games, puzzles, stories and quizzes to
practise structures, vocabulary, spelling and skills; a variety of songs, rhymes and chants –how
to organize project work and hands-on activities to reinforce the language material. Among
additional skills, it would be useful to know how to draw – to be able to create your own
flashcards and illustrations; to sing or at least follow a tune, mime, play an instrument such as
guitar or the piano. These additional skills would be greatly appreciated by the children as they
would add a bit of colour to the lessons.
In the winter semester trainees learn about the characteristics of children as learners, they discuss
in the classes children’s cognitive as well as social and emotional development. Here they study
Piagetian theory and find out that at each stage of its development the child is capable of certain
types of thinking and still incapable of others (Cameron, 2001, p. 3). In the following classes
students are asked to prepare mini talks on other psychologists such as Bruner or Vygotsky and
their theories of child development in order to deepen their knowledge of how a child progresses
in its development. The knowledge of these aspects helps to raise the students’ awareness of
how children learn and develop, what kind of language teachers may expect from their learners,
which tasks might be too complicated and finally when is the right moment to introduce abstract
concepts such as grammar.
In the middle of the term, students become acquainted with such issues as the ‘silent period’
in the language learning process, ‘creative construction’ as a linguistic strategy used by children
or ‘peer pressure’ as an important motivational, affective factor (Brown, 1999). It is important
for the trainees to know how children acquire languages and what are the differences between
adults and children as language learners (here second language acquisition of children and adults
is compared and the importance of the early start is discussed).
Later in the term, trainees learn how to prepare an effective vocabulary presentation using
such visual aids as flashcards, word cards or real objects. It is important for them to choose the
right type of activity to support their presentation. As Halliwell (1993) points out some activities
may engage children mentally such as guessing, imagining, puzzles, games and competitions
whereas other activities ‘actually occupy’ the learners. These are repetitions, reading aloud and
drawing. The proper planning and activity choice would increase the children’s involvement and
make the presentation more effective. During class, students take part in such practical activities
as ‘Simon Says’, ‘Memory’ or ‘Bingo’ used in the vocabulary practice stage. ‘Simon Says’, as
Vale and Feunteun (1995) describe, is an example of an action game where short instructions
are acted out involving lots of physical response. Children easily acquire the spoken language by
linking it with an action. The rule of the game is to follow the instruction only if it is proceeded
by ‘Simon says’.
Later in the class students try out effective presentation techniques in the form of micro-teaching
for which they have to prepare their own materials. Students are asked to work in pairs and they
have one week to prepare the presentation. The possible topics for the presentation are chosen by
the trainees, among their favourite ones are: Animals, My body, My toys, My house. Here, their
micro-teaching tasks are followed by reflection and feedback sessions when the group discusses
the choice of the materials as well as the chosen steps of the presentation. At the end of the
term, the work focuses on the development of young learners’ language skills such as listening,
speaking, reading and finally writing and the preparation of visual aids that support skills-based
activities (Listen and Do, Word Searches, Word Snakes, Spelling Shark, etc.).
Finally, trainees work on writing their first lesson plan based on their choice of a class, the
topic and the materials. Their first lesson plan should include, as Harmer (2001) suggests, lesson
aims that are ‘specific and directed towards an outcome which can be measured. If we say: My
aim is that my students should/ can …… by the end of the class, we will be able to tell, after the
lesson, whether that aim has been met or not’ (p. 314). Additionally, the lesson plan should have
a description of lesson stages and activities included, procedure which describes what the teacher
does and says, the time planned for each activity and finally the teacher’s personal comments and
reflections on the lesson. Plans are handed in to the tutor and assessed. In the final week of the
term, students visit a local Primary school in order to observe and reflect upon a real lesson.
After the first part of the course – the winter semester – students leave the college and take
their first 4 week Block Teaching Practice (BTP) where they try out the techniques and activities
they mastered on the college course. Additionally, this is the time when they may use the teaching
aids they have developed during College classes.
After their BTP students are asked to hand in two lesson plans with teaching aids used in the
lessons as well as a report on project work. The project is an additional task that students receive
for the period of the four week Teaching Practice. They are asked to investigate into a problem
such as Vocabulary testing techniques used by young learner teachers or Techniques used in
classroom management. The students’ task is to interview their cooperating teachers at schools
and observe lessons with children and collect information to solve the problem stated in the
project. Observation sheets and interview questions are included to help in their investigation.
Brown, H. D., Teaching by principles. Prentice Hall Regents (1999)
Cameron, L., Teaching languages to young learners. Cambridge University Press (2001)
Ellis, G. & Brewster, J., Tell it again. The new storytelling handbook for primary teachers.
Penguin English (2002)
Halliwell, S., Teaching English in the primary classroom. Longman (1993)
Harmer, J., The practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd edn. Pearson Education (2001)
Vale, D. & Feunteun, A., Teaching children English. A training course for teachers of English
to children. Cambridge University Press (1995)
The summer term
In the summer semester, the work focuses on further development of trainees’ teaching skills.
First, our work focuses on the importance of stories in the young learner classroom. Stories are
here understood as a variety of children’s literature. Ellis and Brewster (2002) mention stories
known to children in their mother tongue, cumulative stories with predictable endings, traditional
fairy tales, stories known from the children’s culture and many more. Students experience being
read a story – the well known ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle, they are taken through
the stages of preparation – before the story is read – the stage of involvement – when they are
asked to join in and read along and finally, the stage of what Ellis and Brewster (2002) call
‘post-storytelling’ where the focus is on ‘extending and consolidating the language and themes
presented through the story and personalizing work’ (p. 15). This final stage often results in
creating a product which may take the form of a book, a poster or a picture, a model or a class
performance when the story is acted out.
In the middle of the term, students prepare mini-talks about the importance of assessment and
feedback in the young learner classroom. They share their knowledge about ways and techniques
used to assess young learners’ work through formative and summative assessment schemes.
Students create their own scented marks and prepare an example record of achievement as an
observation schedule used in daily observations of children’s progress.
Finally, students experience how to design a board game for vocabulary practice as well
as skills development, they learn how to make simple paper and stick puppets and masks for
classroom activities and plays. The course finishes with a written exam in the summer exam
session that consolidates theoretical aspects discussed in classes as well as checks the knowledge
of teaching techniques practised in class.
Suggested topics for the course:
Module 1: Children as learners
The young learner: a developmental profile
Young learner affective characteristics
A comparison of primary and secondary school methodology
Module 2: Developing language and language skills
Presentation techniques for teaching vocabulary
Teaching listening
Teaching speaking and pronunciation
Teaching reading
Teaching writing
Module 3: Balanced teaching diet
Balanced lessons
ü timing and classroom management
Storytelling and its place in teaching YL
Discipline in class. Stirrers and settlers.
Students are assessed on the basis of their attendance as well as active participation and
involvement in classes. They are asked to keep a Portfolio of student selected teaching
materials and lesson plans, the scope of which is decided by the trainer. One test a semester
is planned to assess students’ background theoretical knowledge. Additional tasks to be assessed
may include a microteaching or a peer-teaching task prepared to demonstrate how to teach a
rhyme, a song or a set of vocabulary items; a detailed lesson plan for a chosen age group with
all the necessary teaching materials or a story-telling/topic based activity for young learners
with designed teaching materials.
Module 4: More issues connected with teaching English to children
12. Assessing young learners.
13. Topic vs activity based work.
14. Art and craft
15. Project work for cross curricular teaching, elements of culture
16. Learning to learn - helping the children to learn
17. Evaluating and selecting textbooks and other published materials
18. Special Educational Needs
ü common problems which may interfere with children’s learning and behaviour
ü dyslexia, dysgraphia, hyperactive children
19. Using video and computer based activities
Ewa Kropielnicka
lessons, with accompanying materials, planned around a chosen story or fairy tale. This is a group
work and students either decide for themselves who they want to prepare the portfolio with or are
assigned to group.
Teaching English to Children and Youngsters
This is a two-semester course, which takes place during the second year of studying at our
College. The lessons are once a week, in the form of workshops. Their general aim is to prepare
students to teach English in different schools of primary level, therefore the course provides a ‘first
aid kit’ knowledge. At the start it covers an outline of child cognitive development on the basis
of five theories provided by different cognitive psychologists and taken from the book Teaching
English to Young Learners (Szulc-Kurpaska, 2003). Having such a basis students move to the
next module of the course that is how to teach the four skills: speaking, listening, reading, and
writing. This part is based on Teaching English to Children (Scott & Ytreberg, 1993) and aims
at involving all the participants in discussions, activities, workshops, and presentations. Here,
theory goes hand in hand with practice. Another issue discussed is teaching English through
stories and games.
The materials for the workshops are taken from The Storytelling Handbook for Primary Teachers
(Ellis & Brewster, 1991) and a videocassette Teaching English to Young Learners. Observation
Tasks (CODN, 2003). Sessions are based on chosen videoed lessons presenting how teachers use
stories for introduction and practising the language. Students analyse and discuss the observed
techniques and also prepare practical tasks, for instance a sequence of two lessons based on
storytelling. A well-balanced lesson and discipline in the classroom are topics that provide some
key information about another aspect of the anatomy of teaching. Basing on ideas from Teaching
Children English. A Training Course for Teachers of English to Children (Vale & Feunteun,1995)
and the videocassette Teaching English to Young Learners. Observation Tasks (CODN 2003)
students learn about the stages of a lesson and how to tailor it to young learners’ needs. They
also train themselves at recognising elements that constitute classroom discipline. The topic that
ends the course is devoted to the issue of choosing appropriate course books to teach from. The
training material is taken from Tasks for Teacher Education (Tanner & Green, 1998).
At the end of each semester students are assessed and graded on the basis of earlier established
criteria such as attendance (there are two absences allowed), passing a semester test (in the winter
and in the summer), and being active during the lessons (taking part in tasks, discussions, activities,
presentations, etc.). At the end of the summer semester there are added two other elements of the
final grade: for the Teaching Practice Portfolio and for one/two thematic portfolios, for instance a
Storytelling Portfolio. During the summer session there is an exam that closes the whole course.
It covers the material from the two semesters and is administered in a written form.
What is a teaching practice portfolio?
This is a set of lesson plans and accompanying teaching materials gathered during a month’s
teaching practice plus a couple of other additional documents such as a teaching practice assessment
paper, etc.. Each student is expected to prepare the portfolio individually. Detailed information is
always provided before the practice begins by our Teaching Practice Manager.
What is a thematic portfolio?
This is a set of materials planned around a currently discussed topic. For example, if we talk about
how to teach English through stories, students are asked to prepare a set of two or three subsequent
What are workshops?
These are lessons based on discussions and practical tasks. Here students talk more than
their teacher.
At the beginning of each semester students are provided with a semester plan of work and a list
of books which are partly used during the lessons and partly recommended for home study.
What is lesson planning?
To have an insight into what a typical lesson may look like read the following exemplary lesson plan.
This workshop takes place during the winter semester and is devoted to teaching writing to children.
The topic of the lesson is: How to teach writing - from theory to practice. It aims at presenting
techniques of teaching writing (practical tasks) and introducing/refreshing how to write in Polish – the
style and way of joining particular letters. Materials used: letter holders and cut out sets of letters
(prepared by students), flashcards with different objects of everyday usage, exercises for practicing
the trace writing technique taken from I can write! (Wieczorek, 2001) and exercises for practicing
chosen different writing techniques from Teaching English to Children (Scott & Ytreberg, 1993)
(additional activity).
TASK 1 (20-30 min.). The first exercise is devoted to the technique of creating individual words
out of single letters. Students prepare paper letter holders and sort out previously cut out letters.
Next, the teacher, using flashcards, presents the technique of creating words out of letters. Students
practice the technique.
TASK 2 (20-30 min.). This activity presents the technique of trace writing. The teacher hands out
exercises from I can write! (Wieczorek, 2001) introducing trace writing. Students practice the skill
implementing the Polish style of writing. This part of the lesson is designed for individual work and
pair work. Next, volunteers write short sentences, provided by the teacher, on a blackboard, using
Polish writing style.
TASK 3 (15 min.). Designed as an additional task, in case a group finishes earlier than planned
and based on Teaching English to Children (Scott & Ytreberg, 1993) it presents the organising and
copying technique. The teacher provides a set of exercises for the students to practice. Next, they
discuss about the advantages of this type of writing technique.
The lesson finishes with feedback and homework.
Ellis, G. & Brewser J., The storytelling handbook for primary teachers. Penguin Books (1991)
Scott, W. A., &Ytreberg, L. H., Teaching English to children. Longman (1994)
Szulc-Kurpaska, M., Teaching English to young learners. Centralny Ośrodek Doskonalenia
Nauczycieli (2003)
Tanner, R. & Green, C., Tasks for teacher education. Addison Wesley Longman (1998)
Teaching English to young learners. Observation tasks. Centralny Ośrodek Doskonalenia
Nauczycieli (2003)
Vale, D. & Feunteun, A., Teaching children English. A training course for teachers of English
to children. Cambridge University Press (1995)
Wieczorek, A., I can write! Wydawnictwo Szkolne PWN (2001)
Magdalena Szyszka
Teaching Practice – 2nd and 3rd Year
The policy of the NKJO is to prepare knowledgeable, professional and well qualified
English teachers. Therefore, there is a strong focus on methodology of English teaching
as well as teaching practice. Teacher trainees are obliged to take part in Teaching Practice
at Polish schools which covers 150 hours in total. The number of hours is specified in
accordance with “Rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej z dnia 30 czerwca 2006r.”,
which refers to educational standards at Teacher Training Colleges in Poland. Teaching
practice is performed in the form of two 75-hour Teaching Practice Blocks: the first one at
the primary and the second one at the secondary level of education. The two levels provide
students with a wide educational spectrum.
The former one starts in the fourth semester, usually in March, when the full-time students
gain experience as English teachers for four weeks and the part-time students for approximately
three months. Within that time teacher trainees are to observe 40 lessons of their experienced
co-operating teachers and teach 35 lessons in primary or “gimnazjum” schools. Students are
encouraged to attend the Block Teaching Practice (BTP) in pairs, which gives them more
support not only on the part of the co-operating teacher but also their partner.
The practice at the latter level of education commences in the fifth semester. Then the
teacher trainees have their BTP in high schools where they are supposed to observe 30 hours
and teach 45 lessons within a four week period (full-time students) or approximately three
months (part-time students).
The sixth semester is the time for a diploma lesson whose objective is to evaluate students’
teaching skills in practice. Teacher trainees are supposed to prepare a professional English
lesson which they then conduct in a real classroom environment. Those lessons are supervised
and evaluated by experienced English teachers.
The BTP co-ordinator’s duty is to sustain and develop cooperation between local schools
and NKJO. Students are given guidelines referring to their BTP and letters to both school
headmasters and co-operating teachers. Teacher trainees are supported by the co-operating
teachers. They are familiarised with the school policy and routine, they are guided in their
lesson planning, coursebook and supplementary materials use and lesson implementation.
All lessons are observed and discussed by professional co-operating English teachers, who
are requested to assess students’ BTP.
Teaching Practice is designed to familiarise students with the educational reality of Polish
schools and the principles of English language teaching put into practice. Students are thoroughly
prepared for their teaching career by practising in classes of different levels and age group
starting from young learners through teenagers to young adults. Students learn through doing.
Teaching Practice develops teacher trainees’ teaching skills:
1. Planning skills, e.g., writing clear objectives of lessons, timing lesson stages, selecting
appropriate materials, planning clear instructions, evaluating and revising lesson plans.
2. Classroom management skills, e.g., class control, dealing with indiscipline, organizing the
layout of the classroom, motivating learners, giving equal opportunities for learners.
3. Teaching different age groups.
4. Teaching different levels of language proficiency.
5. Teaching different aspects of the English language, e.g., teaching skills, teaching
vocabulary, teaching grammar.
Since the first teaching practice begins in the fourth semester, students are already familiarised
with the basic principles and issues of teaching. The methodology course introduced in the
second semester prepares them for learner differences, teaching at various levels, planning,
presentation and class management skills. The course in Teaching Young Learners introduced
in the third semester provides students with the essential knowledge for their first teaching
practice at the primary level of education.
Block teaching practice (BTP)
Co-operating teachers assess teacher trainees’ BTP on a separate form and return it to
the BTP co-ordinator. The criteria refer to planning, liaison with the co-operating teacher,
lesson implementation and its organisation, rapport with the learners and class management.
Teachers assess trainees’ practice against the criteria on a four level scale: always, often,
sometimes, never. They are also requested to provide their statements referring to teacher
trainees’ performance. Here are some of the criteria examined more thoroughly.
The first few criteria comprise planning. Co-operating teachers pay attention to an appropriate,
cohesive lesson plan and clear lesson aims. They assess the suitability of teaching materials
selected for a specific group of learners and consider the degree of implemenation of the
original teaching aids.
At the beginning of the teaching practice the co-operating teacher should be familiarized
with the introductory letter which requests co-operation and guidance. Teacher trainees
liaise with co-operating teachers throughout teaching practice. They discuss school policy
and regulations, they meet before the teaching practice to establish the timetable (40 hours
observed and 35 hours taught). Every lesson is consulted and its lesson plan approved in
advance. Teacher trainees are able to draw constructive conclusions after post-lesson discussions
and comments.
Lesson implementation is assessed with reference to how student-teachers perform in front
of the class, how they start their lessons, what instructions they give, what language they
use (the target language or the mother tongue – is this a conscious decision?) and how they
bring their lessons to an end. There is a strong focus on the use of different techniques of
teaching English language skills, grammar, vocabulary, etc. Student-teachers should introduce
motivating activities, games, involving topics, attractive teaching aids, etc.. They should also
remember about giving learners equal opportunities and varying interaction patterns: pair
work, group work, individual work.
Co-operating teachers observe how teacher trainees manage their classes, whether they can
cope with class indiscipline or how they react in some unpredictable situations. They trace
such features as consequence, punctuality, patience and fairness. One of the assessment criteria
mentions creating a positive atmosphere in the classroom, praising learners and calling them
by their names. These elements motivate learners and accelerate their learning processes.
Lessons taught by the students during their BTP can be observed and assessed by the
NKJO teachers. The first teaching practice taking place in March allows for regular NKJO
teachers’ visits to schools and observations of most of the teacher trainees. In connection with
this NKJO students are obliged to present their timetable to the BTP coordinator at least one
week before the BTP. NKJO teachers are instructed and provided with additional guidelines
on how to direct pre- and post-lesson discussions.
Additionally, teacher trainees are given tasks which are marked by their methodology tutors
after their teaching practice. On the first day at schools student-teachers set up their teaching
practice file and start preparing their teaching practice portfolios. These should include the
description of the chosen class or group, in which some facts on individual learners’ age,
motivation, skills and target language proficiency level are to be stated. Teacher trainees have
to include a sequence of six lesson plans with post-lesson observation notes and teaching
materials they used. If possible, the six lesson plans should refer to the same group, described
earlier, and cover the sequence of lessons taught one after another. Each folio should also
contain a report (250-300 words) on project work which changes from practice to practice. One
of the suggested topics for the project mentioned earlier is “Error Correction”. The objective
of this particular project work is to raise awareness of the issues dealing with teacher’s error
correction in the lesson. Teacher trainees observe how (whether the teacher responded verbally
or non-verbally) and when (at which stage of the lesson) a teacher corrects learners’ errors.
They pay attention to whether there was a particular focus on accuracy or fluency and finally
after the data collection they write a report with their own suggested conclusions.
error management and praising learners for a good performance and the reaction to learners’
behaviour in class. The language of the teacher trainee is also considered. Is there a balance
in the use of the mother tongue and the target language? What is the teacher trainee’s
pronunciation like, their accuracy, fluency, vocabulary, etc.?
The criteria applied in the process of diploma lessons assessment comply with the NKJO
students’ skills developed during their teaching practice and methodology courses.
Teaching practice is organized so that the Teacher Training students can become familiarized
with the classroom atmosphere, the school adventure from the perspective of a teacher, and
to match theory with practice. They are encouraged to experiment with teaching, co-operate
with their partners and professional teachers and discuss the ideas which always come to
creative minds. Students’ responses after their teaching practice reveals that, in most cases,
it is an inspiring and thought-provoking experience.
Teacher Training Practice organized at NKJO in Opole works effectively in the form
described above due to ideas and hard work of professional and experienced teachers
and methodologists: Judith Day, Dr Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel, Dr Liliana Pasecka, Barbara
Jaroszewicz to mention a few.
Teacher trainees are obliged to attend all the BTP lessons both observed and taught. The
college regulations allow the co-operating teachers to fail one’s BTP. In case of failure a
teacher trainee must repeat it.
Diploma lessons
All diploma lessons are assessed by experienced teachers on a separate form which is then
returned to the TP co-ordinator. In case of failure students are allowed to repeat a diploma lesson
once after fulfilling the teacher-assessor’s requirements stated in the post-lesson discussion.
NKJO methodology teachers are allowed to attend and assess diploma lessons. From 2007 the
diploma lessons are to be assessed during the second teaching practice at secondary schools.
The assessment criteria contain the issues focusing on a lesson: lesson planning, lesson
implementation, lesson organization as well as a teacher’s professional skills: teacher’s performance
and teacher’s language. The assessor of a diploma lesson considers lesson planning processes.
Before the diploma lesson the NKJO student has to provide a coherent lesson plan, clear lesson
aims, activities complying with the lesson aims, aims of particular stages and activities, selfassessment and anticipated problems. Lesson implementation comprises logical and natural flow
of the lesson, lesson aims achieved, clear lesson stages implemented, smooth transition from one
stage of a lesson to another performed and the effective use of teaching aids and materials. Lesson
organization takes not only the issue of discipline but also the use of interaction patterns, timing,
precise and clear instructions, reaction to unpredictable situations, giving equal opportunities to
learners and taking an individual approach to poor or talented learners into account.
The criteria aiming at teachers’ skills allow to disclose teacher trainees’ personal qualities
and skills which are indispensable for a good teacher. The assessor pays attention to the
atmosphere created in the classroom, a teacher trainee’s attitude towards the learners, his/her
Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel
Language Acquisition Licenciateship: Seminar
During the last year of Teacher Training College education, students are requested to complete
their study with their diploma thesis written in various fields. One such field is language acquisition
– the study of ways in which people learn or acquire languages. For this purpose a diploma
seminar is offered.
The seminar is devoted to theoretical issues connected with writing a diploma paper on
language acquisition on a variety of issues investigated both from the theoretical and practical
points of view. The direct aim of the supervisor is to help students to choose the topic, carry out
and describe their own research prepared according to formal guidelines.
Usually, the seminar work develops along two strands. Firstly, students read and discuss articles
or chapters from books devoted to the main focus of the seminar. Apart from that, they study
second language acquisition (SLA) methodology, together with basic statistical operations.
The seminar usually takes the form of classes or workshops – 30 hrs per semester, 60 hrs
total. In the second semester, classes are replaced by individual conferencing during which
students polish the final versions of their dissertations. In most cases the seminar is organized
around a certain thematic aspect suggested by the supervisor. Such themes may refer to various
strands exploited by the field of second language acquisition, such as: teaching young learners,
reading in the foreign language, developmental dyslexia or individual differences in language
acquisition. Apart from that, students are also encouraged to propose topics that are connected
with their teaching experience or individual interests.
SLA theory and the dissertation topic
Generally speaking, the formulation of the research topic is a lengthy process, requiring a certain
degree of formal knowledge. For this purpose students read different kinds of publications, both
theoretical and empirical. During classes they discuss them, analyzing ways in which authors
can formulate aims and present the results of their studies.
Dissertation topics are connected with areas of language learning and teaching that can be
empirically evaluated. Such issues are mostly connected with vocabulary, grammar, testing
and assessment, classroom discipline or teaching/acquiring the four skills (speaking, writing,
listening and reading). Students may also research learning strategies or personality factors,
like language anxiety, extroversion of different aspects of motivation. Another issue worth
investigating is error correction.
As far as the choice of the topic is concerned, the most common way is arriving at it from the
point of view of a broad issue, for example The role of grammar in SLA. Obviously, such a topic
cannot be regarded due to its vast scope, unacceptable from the point of view of the diploma thesis
limitations. Then students are encouraged to narrow it down, focusing on any aspect of grammar
they would like to research, e.g., Passive Voice or Present Continuous. Accordingly, in the next
step the topic may be phrased as: Effective teaching of Present Continuous. Here the focus is on
ways in which direct methodological techniques can be applied. Still, the topic seems too broad
for the purpose of a diploma paper, so there is a need of limiting it further. Following the path
of effective teaching, the topic could be formulated as Effectiveness of grammar presentation
techniques. Still, the topic is too general so it can be narrowed to different aspects, for example
to the role of the age factor. Here the author may focus on comparing two group of students, e.g.
primary and secondary school learners at the same level who are presented the same grammatical
issue in the same ways. Then the focus of the study would be to identify presentation techniques
that give better results with older or younger learners. In such a situation the topic may be
worded as Effectiveness of grammar presentation techniques for primary and secondary school
students. The researcher may also want to concentrate on two or more group of students, willing
to establish which types of grammar presentation techniques are more effective from the point
of view of induction and deduction. Then the topic may appear as Induction as an effective
way of grammar presentation in primary school students. A different way of approaching the
topic is looking at it from the perspective of the stages of the lesson. Here, instead of analyzing
presentation, the author can focus on grammar practice or production, taking into consideration
the phases of arriving at the final version of the topic described above.
It is most advisable to base the topic of the dissertation on the main (working) hypothesis
formulated for the purpose of the study. The hypothesis is helpful in proposing the type of study
design and deciding upon the instruments to use. Consequently, in reference to the topic presented
above: Effectiveness of grammar presentation techniques in primary and secondary school
students, the hypothesis can be stated as follows: flashcards are a more effective presentation
technique for primary school students than a situation description. In this case the author of such
a diploma dissertation when writing the theoretical part may want to focus on age differences,
relevant for the process of language acquisition. If such is their decision, they may need to pursue
the importance of grammar in learning English, while discussing various grammar presentation
techniques. In the final part of the theoretical considerations they are ready to formulate their
working hypothesis that will be verified by their empirical research whose results are presented
in the next part of the thesis.
The above hypothesis will lead the author to propose an appropriate research design. It
seems that a design most acceptable in a given situation is a differential one with, for example,
four group of students at the same level of English proficiency, but differing in their age and
school type (two secondary and two primary school group of students). The group are then
taught a lesson introducing the Present Continuous Tense by the same teacher. One primary and
one secondary school groups are presented the tense through the picture technique, while the
other two group are taught through the situation description technique. After the presentation
phase, all participants may get the same grammatical tasks, followed by a test. The researcher
may expect younger students to benefit more from pictures, while older students from a more
analytical approach (a situation description). Then the statistical analyses of the participants’
task performance are likely to give the researcher unbiased information on the effectiveness
of the treatment, allowing them to accept or reject their working hypothesis. It is worth adding
that the quality of the thesis does not depend on the study results – it is vital for the author to
be able to follow the formal requirements, showing a command of basic skills expected from
a novice researcher.
Apart from that, students are encouraged to brainstorm their own topics either located within
the thematic scope of the seminar or of their own preference. The only limitation is that the
researched problem needs to be evaluated empirically. That means that students are expected to
look for ways in which relevant statistical analyses can be applied to find answers on effective
ways of acquiring or teaching a foreign language.
When formulating the topic of their diploma thesis, students need to bear in mind the fact that
that their hypothesis/-es will later have to be verified empirically. That means that these topics
should not imply any research whose duration should exceed the length of the time allocated
to the diploma seminar. Another factor worth mentioning is that the empirical research should
not involve financial expenses beyond the capabilities of the researcher. Moreover, it is mostly
advisable for the researcher in the case of a quasi-experimental study to have another person/
teacher/student to perform the treatment in order to avoid researcher expectancy (when attitudes
and motivations of the researcher affect the results of a study).
SLA research methodology
The diploma seminar also focuses on giving students feedback on different research designs
and instruments that could be applied in their own research, therefore student researchers become
familiar with the statistical programmes STATISTICA or Excell they can use for the purpose of
carrying out their practical analyses.
As far as basic research designs types are concerned, students can choose from diagnostic
(descriptive) and experimental research. In the first, they observe (test) the behaviour of English
language learners or teachers. The most popular methods applied here can be a case study (a single
student is inspected), correlational research (a relationship between two or more variables) or
differential research (comparing two or more group). In the experimental research its participants
are manipulated (taught and tested). Its prevailing type is a quasi-experiment. The primary
difference between a quasi-experiment and a true experiment is that the first accepts natural group
(such as classes at schools) without assigning students randomly into experimental group.
There are various research instruments that can be used for the purpose of the diploma study.
The basic ones are tests; they can be grammar or vocabulary tests designed or adopted from
other sources by the researcher. Apart from that there are also questionnaires, interviews or
surveys analyzing students’/teachers’ opinions, behaviours or attitudes. A researcher may use a
collection of different instruments to get a deeper insight into the matters studied.
Having obtained the research results, the author needs to evaluate them qualitatively (this
approach does not require statistical analyses) and quantitatively. The usual procedure is to do
this by means of STATISTICA, a statistical programme available at the College. Some classes
are devoted to the application of basic statistical procedures. Nevertheless, there is an electronic
STATISTICA manual at: For some of the
rudimentary operations, students can also use Excell.
Outline of the diploma dissertation
In most cases the diploma paper consists of three parts: introduction, main body (Part One:
Theoretical and Part Two: Empirical) and a concluding part (Conclusion). In the introductory
part (Introduction) students describe their field of interest, together with their main hypothesis/es they hope to corroborate empirically in their diploma research.
Main body
It consists of two general parts: theoretical and practical (empirical). Both parts need to be
well-balanced, with the empirical part not exceeding the length of the previous part.
In the theoretical part students give a general picture of the ELT background, narrowing it
to the main construct (the problem) the author wants to investigate. Having presented the issue
under inspection against the larger SLA background, they focus on a variety of definitions of
the selected construct and propose the working definition of the construct, i.e., the definition
resulting from the current state of knowledge of the field of their interest, that is most appropriate
for their purposes. Then its scope and validity for language acquisition processes is discussed.
Apart from that, the researcher may also want to investigate other issues related to the topic
that may have an influence on the formation of the hypothesis. Finally, the author introduces
the main hypothesis of their research, taking advantage of all the theoretical findings presented
in this part of the dissertation.
The practical part is devoted to the empirical verification of the hypothesis based on the
theoretical research presented in the previous part. Here the statement of purpose, research
questions and/or hypothesis/-es are presented. Next, there is the description of the participants,
instruments, design and variables. They are followed by the description of results in terms of
descriptive and inferential statistics. In the next step students answer their research question/-s on
the basis of the results they obtained. Below is a visual representation of the empirical (practical)
part of the diploma thesis with its links to the Theoretical Part and Conclusion (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. A visual representation of the empirical part of the diploma paper
(adapted from:
Here the general aim of the diploma dissertation is presented, showing the main theoretical
findings that were then empirically evaluated. Then implications for further studies are presented
with a focus on other research questions and other research designs that could be implemented
on the basis of their own research. Finally, students identify practical implications of their
study for the EFL teaching methodology: teacher and student behaviour, teaching methods and
conditions, etc.
All the formal requirements for the diploma dissertation follow the guidelines proposed by
The English Department at Opole University. In the case of the language acquisition seminar
they are generally based on the APA (American Psychology Association) stylesheet that is
generally accepted by most journals devoted to the SLA field.
Basic statistics course
Aside from the main diploma course devoted to writing the thesis, students learn basic ways
of analyzing data they collect during their empirical research.
Generally, data analysis can take the form of:
a. descriptive statistics (description or summary of a data set that cannot show the extent to
which they represent a larger population or other, similar sets). Here the main operations
that can be performed include
* central tendency (a typical value for a set of numbers; typical behaviour of the group)
* mean (arithmetic average)
* mode (the score that occurs most frequently in a set of scores)
* median (the middle point in a distribution)
* dispersion (the variation of the numerical values away from the central tendency).
* range (the number of points between the highest and lowest scores + 1)
* standard deviation (a regular distance marking off certain portions of the distribution and
showing how much the numbers vary away from the mean). For a normal distribution,
most scores (68%) are expected to fall within one standard deviation of the mean. In the
case of 95%, the data fall within 2 standard deviations and 99% within 3;
Brown, H. D., Readings on second language acquisition. Prentice Hall Regents (1995)
Brown, J. D., Understanding research in second language learning. Cambridge University
Press (1998)
Brown, J. D. & Rodgers, T. S., Doing second language research. Oxford University
Press (2002)
Hatch, E. & Lazaraton, A., The research manual. Heinle & Heinle (1991)
Winkle, D., Wiersma, W. & Jurs, S., Applied statistics for the behavioural sciences.
Houghton Mifflin (1994)
Seliger, H. W. & Shohamy, E., Second language research methods. Oxford University
Press (1989)
b. inferential statistics (investigate the extent to which descriptive statistics represent a larger
population or other, similar data sets) - significant differences
* comparing means
* comparing frequencies
frequency (f) – an indicator showing how often a phenomenon occurs
* comparing correlation coefficients to zero (r) (correlation coefficient – an index
representing the degree of relationship between two sets of numbers).
1.00 - a very strong relationship
.00 - no relationship
-1.00 - a strong but opposite relationship
* probabilities (p) – significant differences stated in terms of the probability that the
observed difference was due to chance fluctuations, p < .05.
Judging by the plentitude of strands that must be controlled for the purpose of successful
writing a diploma paper on language acquisition, it may seem that the challenge is insurmountable.
The student is expected to deal effectively with the SLA theory but at the same time to control
the research process. Finally, they are expected to include all those aspects in a diploma
dissertation, while following strict guidelines. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that due to
all these requirements NKJO graduates are well-prepared to accept the challenge of MA studies
and taking charge of their own learning. It is true that statistics can be terrifying at first glance;
yet, students soon recognize the rationale for its use. Such knowledge also enables them to read
the literature of the field with greater awareness and produce their own well-grounded empirical
studies. Thanks to their systematic work they are able to complete their dissertations on time to
enjoy the effects of their efforts during their successful MA studies.
Section C. Study through English
Anna Bokszczanin
Introduction to Psychology and Pedagogy
Advice for New Teachers
New teachers should be passionate about their subject area, devoted to their students, and always
believe that their students can do what they are able to do not just what they want to do.
Alan Feldman*
Definition of the subject
The subject includes some issues from two relative social sciences – psychology and
pedagogy. According to a popular definition, psychology is the “study of behavior and
mental processes and how they are affected by an organism’s physical state, and external
environment” (Tavris & Wade, 1991, p.7). The elements of pedagogy introduced in the course
concern the teacher’s practical abilities of coping with problems which may appear during the
didactic process. The pedagogical aspects of the process are best summarized by Elias et al.
(1997, p. 300) in their guidelines for educators. “Educators all levels (elementary, middle,
and high school) need explicit plans to help students become knowledgeable, responsible,
and caring. Efforts are needed to build and reinforce skills in four major domains of social
and emotional learning:
a. Life Skills and Social Competencies
b. Health Promotion and Problem Behavior Prevention Skills
c. Coping Skills, Conflict Resolution, and Social Support
d. Positive, Contributory Service”.
According to the guideline, teachers assist their learners in acquiring knowledge but also
in growing to be sensitive and responsible members of the communities of which they are
members. To provide for such development, the teachers have to have numerous skills and
abilities. These skills and abilities are highlighted during the course.
The aims of the course
The main aim of the course is to provide elementary knowledge from the fields of psychology
and pedagogy. Thus the students learn about psychological theories, they acquire concepts
and terms that are indispensable for the teaching profession. Cognition of the main rules
accompanying the teaching process gives possibilities for creating appropriate attitudes and
indispensable skills. Further, the College students become familiar with scientific vocabulary
and definitions in two languages, both Polish and English. The aim of the course is studying
psychology and pedagogy through English; familiarizing students with scientific theories,
concepts and terms is a basis of the teachers’ work. Also, the student’s awareness of rules and
mechanisms connected with the teaching process will allow them to develop positive attitudes
and skills that are fundamental for teaching. However, College students become familiar with
scientific vocabulary and definitions in the two languages. The question that the students
Feldman, A. The teaching of psychology: Enrichment and bewitchment. In T. A. Benson, C. Burke, A. Amstadter, R. Siney,
V. Hevern, B. Beins, & W. Buskist, (Eds.), Teaching psychology in autobiography: Perspectives from exemplary psychology
teachers (pp. 85-89). Society for the Teaching of Psychology (2005)
answer before they start probing the complex of human behaviour and human society, is the
following: “What do teachers need psychology and pedagogy for”? Also it seems very easy
to answer this question; the task is not easy at all.
What is psychological and pedagogical knowledge of teachers for? This is a question students
should answer before they go on to the detailed issues. Generating the answers seems easy
only on the surface. Students should be more aware they study not only for practical reasons,
but also for their own personal development.
Sample task
I ask students in my class to recall their teachers from the past. On the basis of their
memories each student has to analyse the teachers’ traits and prepare his/her own list of
the traits which they liked and disliked. Afterwards they make a common list of the teachers’
required personality traits and behaviours that characterize “best teachers’”.
The conclusion of the introductory discussion is also that today psychological and pedagogical
knowledge are canons and standards of each educated adult. Such conclusions bring out and
reinforce motivation to study the subject. Students should be aware they study not only for
practical reasons, but also for their personal development.
Description of the course
Main psychological theories of human behaviour are discussed at the onset of the course.
The development of psychology as an independent branch of knowledge dates back to the
19th century so it has a history of about 150 years. During this time a few grand approaches
explaining human behaviours and mental processes appeared. Students are obliged to know the
main assumptions of the psychodynamic approach, behaviouristic and cognitive approaches
together with their most important representatives. All the approaches have their followers up
to now. A review of the dominant theories shows a complexity of human nature and proves
that there is no one universal, credible, and simple approach explaining human behaviour
that would satisfy everyone.
From the beginning of the course the concept of critical thinking is also discussed. Critical
thinking is understood as the ability and willingness to assess claims and make objective
judgements on the basis of well-supported reasons (Tavris & Wade, 1991, p. 31). The concept
is introduced to separate common knowledge from scientific knowledge. The former has its
history and experience in literature and media. The latter is collected and documented on
scientific research based on strict methodology. During classes students have a possibility
to exercise and enhance their skills in critical thinking. For example, they look for pros and
cons of some phenomena that occur in our social life like dousing, or results of experiments
done with the participation of animals.
The themes we focus on
The methods of conducting research on behaviour are discussed further. Although,
conducting research is not a basic teacher skill but the ability is very useful when the teachers
objectively evaluate and assess their learners. A case study, a survey, an experiment or an
observation allows for increasing objectivity in student’s knowledge evaluation. In addition,
the methods may be also helpful in evaluating learners’ needs along with the needs of the
school community.
Sample task
An example of a scientific process is a survey research. I ask students to identify 5-10
common social problems in schools and write them down on the board. Each student must
choose one problem from the list. A maximum of 4 people come next to the problem on the
board. In small group students consider how to probe the problem and prepare 10 questions
to this end. When short surveys are prepared, students have to find the respondents, examine
them, analyse the results, and discuss them and write short reports.
It is difficult to imagine a course of psychology or pedagogy without the elementary rules
of knowledge acquisition, i.e. learning. After a discussion of the rules of classical and operant
conditioning it is easy to show they work in practice and how they may be used to teach
The use of punishment by teachers is also discussed during this class. The problem is
especially controversial because punishment is ubiquitous and overused during the teaching
process. Studying these issues, students learn about side effects of inadequate punishment,
e.g. an increase of anxiety, the appearance of neurosis and school phobias and the decrease
in motivation for further learning.
Intelligence is a theme arousing students’ emotions. Psychologists generally agree, it
would be difficult to find a person who would not agree that people have specific abilities
such as mathematical, verbal, linguistic, artistic, sport, etc. Psychologists are concerned with
relationships between specific sorts of intelligence and the general one. Moreover, they focus
on the emotional intelligence and its role in human life. Emotional intelligence is defined as a
skill in reading and understanding other people’s emotions as one’s. This kind of intelligence
is perceived as a key to success.
Problems of motivation for learning are a separate topic. What is the difference between
motivation and instinct? What is the reason that some people persist in completing their
tasks while others give up after the first failure? How to arouse and maintain a high level of
student motivation? The above and similar questions are discussed in the light of empirical
research results. After that we look for practical ways of arousing students’ motivation for
learning English.
Considering the origin of human behaviours, the debate on Nature versus Culture, seems
to be an important theme for College students. It is impossible to talk about human behaviour
without taking into account the biological bases of these behaviours, the role of genes and the
biological blueprint. Charles Darwin was the first to show similarities between the behaviour
of human beings and other species. His ideas are known as the most important assumptions
of evolutionary psychology. The most important assumptions reveal stability and plasticity
in personality traits, individual differences and heredity of temperament.
In this climate we discuss cognitive and emotional issues of child and adolescent development.
Cognitive development cannot be separated from linguistic development, which is a very
important area for language teachers. Emotional development focuses student’s attention
on bonding and attachment as a base of an emotional connection between two people. A
very important part of the developmental class is the Erik Erikson psychosocial theory of
development. It consists of eight stages each of which is characterized by a psychological
crisis. One of the most important periods is adolescence, the time between childhood and
adulthood. Traditionally, this time is described as the time of turmoil and rebellion, but some
studies show that average teenagers feel happy and satisfied themselves and their communities
(Tavris & Wade, 1991, p. 505).
Among the most interesting problems are stress and coping. The concepts of “fight-orflight” reactions, General Adaptation Syndrome or treating stressors as a challenge not a
threat become familiar, understandable and useful for all course participants. Many students
recognize they are not good at coping with their school stresses. The theoretical knowledge
about stress and coping is thus practically applied.
Sample task
I divide the class into group of 2-3 people and have them discuss their successes and
failures in coping with their school stresses. After that the group report their best ways of
coping and we make a list of the best strategies students use.
Towards the end of the basic psychology and pedagogy course the discussion about group
processes takes place. Conformity, competitiveness and obedience at school are the topics of
the study. Prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes are the terms that need special attention
because they usually refer to children from different backgrounds. Prejudice is an attitude
(usually negative) toward the members of some group. Discrimination often accompanies
prejudice and involves some action towards particular group. Stereotypes are beliefs that
all members of the group share the same traits or characteristics (Duffy & Wong, 1996). The
negative effects of the prejudice are isolation, arguments, alienation, school violence and
stigmatization of some children or group. The problem is what adults, teachers and parents
can do if they want to lessen the effects of prejudices in the classroom? As a result of reading
the chapter about group processes from Wade and Tavris’s textbook (1991) we discover the
rules and benefits of the democratic style in class management by teachers.
What is the most important for students?
Studying the introduction to psychology and pedagogy focuses on reading adequate literature
and discussion of the main topics. Sometimes students watch short educational films, listen
to short lectures illustrated by transparencies or watch PP presentations. Sometimes students
are asked to do interviews and observations out of class and write essays. Their knowledge is
also evaluated by various tests. The natural barrier in the study is the English language, which
is not well known by the first year students. Actually, they have to study in two languages
because it is easier understand some problems if they know all the terms also in Polish. It is
necessary to emphasise that they study through English.
The main assumption at the course is to make the students reflect on how to be a good
teacher, considering psychological and pedagogical ramifications of the human nature. I hope
they will perceive each student as a unique individual and a class as a community with their
own needs, aims and possibilities. I would like them to develop an attitude of respect to all
learners regardless at their race, gender and religion. My students must accept and learn their
further role as a leader of the community who is able not only to teach but also make changes
in the school environment. Teachers cannot play the role of diagnosticians only but they also
should shape child development and their attitudes toward the society.
Duffy, K., & Wong, F., Community psychology. Allyn and Bacon (1996)
Elias, M. J., Zins, J., Weissberg, R. B., Frey, K., Greenberg, M., Haynes, N., Kessler, R.,
Schwab-Stone, M., & Schriver, T., Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidlines
for educators. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (1997)
Tavris, C. & Wade, C., Psychology. Harper & Row (1991)
Wacław Grzybowski
to introduce them into fiction through his short stories (“Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of
Sleepy Hollow,” 1819), which, despite imitation of literary European models, achieve the successful
expression of the uniqueness of the American landscape, mentality and history.
American Literature – Lectures
Lectures on History of American Literature comprise themes from Puritan literature of the
colonial period to Postmodernism. The main aim of this course is to prepare students for the test
concerning American literature within the Licence Exam. I present general trends in American
culture and their literary manifestations as well as outstanding individual authors. Their works and
views are discussed in connection with ideological disputes of a given period. This approach aims
at showing American culture and literature in its dynamic development. At the same time it allows
to highlight the distinctive features of the so-called “American experience,” i.e. of the historical
process, reflected in literary works, resulting in the making of a new, cultural and civilizational,
quality in the Western World, inspired by European history and values, but significantly unique. It
is true that America is not so much 15 years ahead of Europe as 150 years aside it. The different
direction of American culture comes into focus when one considers the changes various ideological
and literary trends, imported from Europe, undergo there.
American Romanticism
Romanticism turns out to be exceptionally fertile for American literature and culture. The historical
“American experience” finds its mythical, half-idealistic and half-realistic, reflection in the prose of
James Fenimore Cooper, especially in his Leatherstocking novels (e.g. The Last of the Mohicans,
1826). An antithesis of Cooper’s Romanticism is represented by Allan Edgar Poe’s poems (e.g.
“Raven,” 1845) and horror stories (e.g. “The Fall of the House of Usher,” 1839) and his metaphysics
of destructivity, which paradoxically is also rooted in idealism of the Neo-Platonic character. Cooper’s
Romantic cult of nature and optimistic myth of American Adam find their continuation in essays
and poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who, in his famous text “Nature” (1836), creates the idea of
Transcendentalism (becoming the proper name of American Romanticism). In “The Poet” (1844)
he sets premises for the individual style of American poetry. Emerson’s ideas inspire Walt Whitman,
a self-taught poet from Manhattan, famous for his “Song of Myself” (1855), to become “the bard”
of American democracy, and Emily Dickinson, an eccentric solitary from Amherst, struggling
with her Calvinist heritage and the influence of Transcendentalism to achieve her own individual,
poetic-religious vision. The representatives of symbolic novel, Hawthorne and Melville, explore
the Romantic vision of the “truth of human heart” (e.g. in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, 1849)
and of “the Absolute truth” (e.g. in Melville’s Moby Dick or the White Whale, 1851).
The Colonial Period and the beginnings of the vernacular American literature
Apart from basic features of Puritan prose and poetry, this part of the lectures attempts to
explain the basic ideas of so-called Puritan Calvinism, brought to the New World by its English
representatives, juxtaposed with the traditional Christian understanding of the Bible in order to show
their unintended derailment in the direction of a pessimistic, non-Biblical, semi-Gnostic vision of
God and man. Despite these negative tendencies the encounter with beauty and its severity of the
“virgin land” makes authentic human values break through the veil of pessimism in Puritan diaries
(e.g., Journal of John Whinthrop, 1630-1649), and in the best poems of Anne Bradstreet (including
“Contemplations,” 1650, and “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” 1678)* and Edward Taylor
(Meditations, 1660-1698). The so-called “American experience” turns out to be a factor which
neutralizes destructive tendencies of new ideologies coming from the Old Continent.
The same concerns Enlightenment, which in America does not yield in revolutionary terror, as it
will soon in the French revolution, but assumes more realistic social solutions. In American colonies
Enlightenment inevitably becomes an opposition to Puritanism. However, at the same time, it exerts
its influence on American Calvinism. Despite his involvement in an attempt to revive the original
spirit of Puritanism, Jonathan Edwards is an eminent example of intellectual Calvinism, adopting
new rationalism for religious purposes. One of the “founding fathers” of the American Constitution,
Benjamin Franklin, is an eminent representative of common sense philosophy and an ideological
reversal of Edwards. His Autobiography (1791) sets the basis for one of the leading ideas-myths of
American culture, the idea of the “self-made man,” anticipating the myth of the “American dream,”
meaning the economic and social success achieved through one’s own industriousness.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, together with the need for cultural tradition, independent
from British models, there appear Romantic ideas in American literature. Although Washington Irving
does not identify himself with Romanticism, he appreciates some of its conventions and manages
* Italics mark a title of a book, i.e., a novel or a collection of poems or essays. Normal fonts in “inverted commas” mark a title
of a single poem, an essay or a short story.
Realism and naturalism in American fiction
Although Mark Twain (Samuel Longhorn Clemens), William Dean Howells and Henry James
are not the first realistic writers, they are, nevertheless, the most eminent ones. The vast area of
social and individual experiences of average Americans, ignored by Romanticism, is brought out
by these three realists. Twain is famous for his irony, epic talent and literary discovery of childhood
memories, presented in his famous Mississippi trilogy (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876, Life
on the Mississippi, 1883, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1883). Apart from being a theorist
of realistic fiction, Howells is also a keen explorer of industrialism (e.g., in The Rise of Silas
Lapham, 1882). Henry James is known as the father of Psychological Realism in American fiction.
In his novels, such as The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Wings of the Dove (1902), and others,
he shifts the narration from the exterior action to the inner world of human thoughts, feelings and
The scientific discovery of deterministic laws in nature provokes European ideologists of socalled Positivism to claim that natural determinism can be used to explain the entirety of human
life. In effect man is perceived as a biological machine determined by physical and social forces,
deprived of individual freedom. Art and spirituality are rejected as useless for the new scientific
civilization, which forces European writers to prove that fiction is another form of science. Such
approach dominates in literary Naturalism in Western fiction at the end of the nineteenth century.
In America, however, both Positivism and Naturalism are filtered again through the spectrum of
specific attitudes and convictions. Here, the Naturalistic vision of man is modified by the deep
instinct of truth and liberty, by Romantic sentiments and propensity for literary experiments. Thus
the most outstanding examples of new fiction written by Stephen Crane (Maggie: A Girl of the
Streets, 1893, The Red Badge of Courage, 1895) offer an interesting fusion of Naturalism and other
literary trends, such as Romanticism, Impressionism and Psychological Realism.
Modernism in American poetry and fiction
The literary Modernism is a response to Positivism and an attempt to overcome the deterministic
vision of human life and rejection of artistic values. It is not an accident that the main founders of
the poetic Modernism are Americans. Ezra Pound and Thomas Stearns Eliot try to prove, in their
essays and poems, that art and literature offer an objective knowing of man and the world. However,
in the case of Pound the influence of Positivistic determinism is still strong. The new poetic schools
of Imagism and Vorticism, in such volumes of poetry as Cathay and Lustra (1916), as well as the
theory of the poem as Ideogram, in his famous Cantos (1930-1956), aim to prove that poetry has
scientific qualities and expose the deterministic forces in human life and in the history of mankind.
In the case of T. S. Eliot, his profound knowledge of philosophy and culture allows him to discover
an error of reductionism, in effect of irrationalism, in the basic claims of the Positivistic ideology.
Inspired by ideas of Bradley and Richards, he does not feel forced to adjust to quasi-rationalism
of Positivism and manages to show that art and literature possess their own deep objectivism and
rationalism, different from the scientific one, similar to rationality of religious knowing. Soon his
agnosticism turns into the search for spiritual values and the choice of Anglo-Catholicism for his
faith. His famous poems such as Waste Land (1920), Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930),
and Four Quartets (1936) offer the innovative and effective use of poetic metaphor, together with
an integral vision of human life and rich, meaningful allusions to Christian tradition as well as
ancient mythology and Eastern religions. The Modernist poetry of imagination is created by such
outstanding poets as Wallace Stevens (Harmonium, 1923) Marianne Moore (“Poetry,” 1921) and
E. E. Cummings (Tulips and Chimneys, 1923). William Carlos Williams’s experiments with socalled poetic Objectivism (Spring and All, 1923) and his essays (In the American Grain, 1925) are
intended to be an opposition to Eliot’s religious “high” Modernism. After World War II, Williams
becomes the main critic of Eliot and contributes to the withdrawal of young American poets from the
Modernist style of writing. Paradoxically, his cycle of epic poems Paterson (1946-1958) employed
metaphors and symbols similar to T. S. Eliot’s.
At the same time, both Pound and Eliot find their immediate followers. Pound creates a group
of Imagists, to which belong Amy Lowell, John Gould Fletcher, Hilda Doolittle, and Marianne
Moore. They all accept the three principles of modern poetry, i.e. direct treatment of the “thing”,
the concision of expression, and the use of musical phrase rather than the rhythm of metronome.
The followers of Eliot in American poetry form a group of so-called Fugitives, which gathered the
humanists from the South (Vanderbuilt University, Tennessee). Its main core is represented by John
Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, Cleanth Brooks, and Robert Penn Warren. Initially
very critical of the so-called Southern tradition, they become, with the flow of time conservative,
advocates of the agrarian model of culture rooted in the local soil and agricultural community,
faithful to traditional religion and developing a refined poetic and metaphysical sensibility. They
expressed their point of view in the famous essay I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian
Tradition (1930), which conveyed their criticism of destructivity of the industrial system. Brooks’s
and Warren’s Understanding Poetry (1938) became an academic school book offering a new
approach to the interpretation of poetry based on Eliot’s perception of the poem as a text, isolated
from the poet’s life, and as a record of experience. The famous collection of John Crowe Ransom’s
essays The New Criticism (1941) gave the name to the new conservative movement in literature
and literary criticism, which focused on poetic metaphor as the expression of a cognitive, artistic,
and metaphysical dimension of poetry.
Modernism in American fiction is represented by the writers of the so-called “Lost Generation,”
i.e. belonging to the generation of Americans who went through the chaos of World War I and the
ensuing experience of collapse of traditional values. As a result, the writers of the “Lost Generation”
rejected the traditional religious understanding of the world. However, they still retained faith in
the capability of the human mind to discover truth, at least as the meaning of individual life. Thus
in their novels and short stories they created characters lost in the maze of the modern world and
sentenced to the lonely search of the purpose of their existence. The most eminent of them were
Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Fitzgerald is famous for his
novel The Great Gatsby (1925), presenting his response to the question of human existence. This
response, very American in its character, offers the fusion of imaginative life and romantic dreams
with economic success. In his various novels, such as A Farwell to Arms (1929), Death in the
Afternoon (1932), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1949), The Old Man and the Sea (1952), Hemingway
presents human fortitude struggling with the hostile world. Faulkner shares with Hemingway a
similar attraction to the heroic attitude. However, his literary vision is most directly combined with
the culture of the American South. He is more traditional and more innovative, at the same time, than
other Modernists. His numerous novels, such as The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying
(1930), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Hamlet (1940), Go Down, Moses
(1942), The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959), introduce literary experiments (e.g. stream of
consciousness) and return, at the same time, to the reality of the South. Faulkner creates in them the
Southern county of Yoknapatawapha, small and marginal, but for him without it the whole universe
is deprived of meaning. Yoknapatwapha and its capitol, Jefferson, are fictitious but they bear all the
distinctive features of the author’s native county, Mississippi. In this way he presents the faithful
picture of the Southern past and present, and of both the Southern virtues, such as chivalric heroism,
courage and compassion, and vices, such as violence, and racial prejudice.
American theatre
The twentieth century is a time of exceptional proliferation of writers, poets and playwrights
in the U.S.. In fact, the creation of the American style in drama comes at the beginning of the
previous century. For various reasons American theatre was dependent on European tradition and
popular culture. With the emergence of Eugene O’Neill, it achieves its most ambitious and cultureforming independence. It is no accident that his plays possess the quality of both classical drama
and Shakespearean tragedy. In fact, as a son of a popular Shakespearian actor, he grows up in the
shadow of both. In his early dramas, such as The Dreamy Kid (1915), The Moon of Carribees (1918),
and Beyond the Horizon (1920), he exposes the dilemmas of the American lower class. Even if the
colloquial language of his plays does not match the classical models, his lower-class heroes raise
the image of an average American to the level of the tragic heroes of antiquity and Shakespearian
plays. At the same time, O’Neill adds Modernist existentialist realism. The Emperor Jones (1920)
gives him the position of a leading playwright in America and introduces Expressionism into his
output. A trilogy about the Southern family of the Mannons, Mourning Becomes Electra (1929),
continues the tradition of Psychological Realism. In Days Without End (1934) he shows a character
who returns to Catholicism in which he grew up. In this way O’Neill reflects his reconciliation
with the Catholic Church as his own natural religious environment. In his last play, assessed as
one of his best dramas, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1940), he looks retrospectively into the
relationships within his family.
Obviously there are many more eminent representatives of American theatre in the period before
Word War II, such as Maxwell Anderson, Elmer Rice, Clifford Odets, and others. However, this
period is justly labeled as “the age of O’Neill”.
After the war, the existential realism of O’Neill is continued and adjusted to new times by
William Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Williams’s most famous play, A Streetcar Named
Desire (1947), takes up Naturalistic and Expressionistic elements of O’Neill’s output. It shows the
brutal confrontation of the dreams of the main heroine, coming from an impoverished aristocratic
Southern family, with the dominant mentality of the lower class. Miller’s most popular play, Death
of a Salesman (1949), combines Expressionism with Psychological Realism. It tells a story of an
ageing salesman caught in a trap of illusions sustained by the “American Dream” propaganda. As
such, it remains one of the most important criticisms of this myth.
Afro-American fiction
The history of literature written by Afro-Americans dates back to the nineteenth century, when
freed or fugitive slaves described their poignant experiences in their diaries. However, its golden
age comes with Harlem Renaissance, a movement initiated by black intellectuals to find a larger
audience for the variety of artistic activities of the Afro-American. Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923), a
remarkable modernist experiment in poetry and prose, opens the literary stage of this movement.
Langston Hughes is another eminent poet debuting on the wave of Harlem Renaissance. He differs
though from Toomer in his stress on the uniqueness of the Negro identity. He introduces the rhythms
of jazz and blues, together with the folk flavor of blues lyrics. Countee Cullen’s uniqueness consists in
the integration of the Romantic English poetry with the distinctive dilemmas of Afro-Americans.
With the debut of Zora Neal Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1927), Harlem Renaissance
starts the development of modern Afro-American fiction. Richard Wright, the first to achieve worldwide fame, is the author of Native Son (1940) which studies the psychic and social condition of
a young Negro from an urban black ghetto. The violent ideology of racial strife propagated by
Wright’s fiction finds many critics also among black writers. James Baldwin is one them. In his
eminent novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953), he presents an alternative approach to racial
problems, seeing the solution not in violence but in artistic creativity. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible
Man (1952) presents a symbolic journey of the nameless hero through America dominated by the
white majority, and through the Afro-American ghetto dominated by futile ideologies, to find a
glimpse of hope in the sense of human dignity discovered in his homeless solitude. In the second
half of the twentieth century Afro-American fiction is continued among others by Toni Morrison
(Song of Solomon, 1977, Beloved, 1987) and Alice Walker (The Color Purple, 1982). The main
representatives of Afro-American poetry are Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) (Black Magic,
1969) and Gwendolyn Brooks (Annie Allen, 1949).
The post-war fiction
The golden age of American literature continues after World War II. One of the leading writers
in the 1950’s is J. D. Salinger, the author of The Catcher in the Rye (1951), and Franny and Zooey
(1961), in which he presents psychological and religious dilemmas of the post-war generation of
middle-class Americans. In the South the tradition of Faulkner’s troubled realism is continued by
women writers such as Carson McCullers (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1949), and Flannery
O’Connor (Wise Blood, 1952, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” 1955). The latter attempts to set
spiritual realism of her Catholic faith in the context of the cultural collapse of the South in order
to communicate to her Protestant or agnostic audience the basic human and spiritual values. In the
1960’s, a similar aim is achieved by another Southern Catholic writer, Walker Percy, who, in his The
Moviegoer (1961) presents the story of a difficult maturation to real freedom of a typical “young
urban professional,” at first lured by womanizing, ultimately choosing an authentic commitment
of faithfulness.
John Updike, of Northern, Protestant background, discusses other moral dilemmas of the postwar generations of Americans, such as the conflict between simple religious trust and obsession
with profit at all costs in The Poorhouse Fair (1959), or emotional and familial problems of liberal
mentality in his famous Rabbit cycle (Rabbit Run, 1960, Rabbit Redux, 1972, Rabbit is Rich, 1972,
Rabbit at Rest, 1990).
Norman Mailer’s short fiction (“The White Negro,” 1957) anticipates the cult of the hipster
and the emergence of the Beat Generation literature. Mailer is of Jewish background. However,
typically Jewish themes do not appear in his writings. They become important points of reference
for other eminent authors of Jewish origin, such as Isaac Bashevis Singer, coming from Poland, or
Saul Bellow (the author of Dangling Man, 1944, The Victim, 1947, The Adventures of Augie March,
1953 etc.), and others, or Bernard Malamud, exposing the mystery of Jewish spirituality (in such
novels as The Assistant, 1957, Pictures of Fidelman, 1969, Dubin’s Life, 1979, etc.), or Philip Roth,
ironically portraying the mentality of traditional Jewishness (e.g., in Portnoy’s Complaint, 1968).
The Beat Generation writers such as Jack Kerouac and William Borroughs offer an insight into
the underground life of the generation of the 1960’s. Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) reaches back
to the ecstatic experiences of Romantics and sets them in the context of the Beatniks’ life.
The twentieth century is also the time of further experiments with fiction. Postmodern writing
brings the vision of total relativism by suggesting that absolute truth is non-existent and human
life is stigmatized by the absurd. John Barth (The Floating Opera, 1956) and Thomas Pynchon (V.,
1963) belong to the most characteristic authors of this school.
Postmodern poetry
Post-war American poetry starts with the Modernist symbolism of Robert Lowell, in his “The
Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket” (1948), who soon turns away from “high” Modernism, partly
under Williams’s influence, to establish his own school of confessional poetry (Life Studies, 1956).
His style finds its parallels in the poetry of Theodore Roethke (Words for the Wind, 1957) and John
Berryman (Henry’s Fate and Other Poems, 1972). At the same time Lowell’s confessional poetry
is followed by Anne Sexton (All My Pretty Ones, 1962) and Sylvia Plath (The Colossus, 1960). The
1950’s bring also the phenomenon of the Beat Generation poetry the most spectacular example of
which is Allen Ginsberg (Howl, 1957). Religious Catholic poetry is represented by an outstanding
author, Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and religious writer, who manages to integrate in his
writings the poetic version of orthodox Christology and the aesthetics of new literary trends of both
Modernism and Postmodernism (famous for Strange Islands, 1957, Cables to the Ace, 1968). Black
Mountain school, founded by Charles Olson (The Maximus Poems, 1960), combines the echoes
of Transcendentalism with poetic Postmodernism. The most eminent representatives of so-called
Postmodern poetry are the New York poets, Frank O’Hara (“In Memory of My Feelings,” 1960)
and John Ashbery (“Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” 1975), and such visionary poets of nature
as A. R. Ammons (Bridge, 1965).
Cunliffe, M., American literature to 1900. Sphere Books (1975)
Cunliffe, M., American literature since 1900. Sphere Books (1975)
Ford, B. (Ed.), Penguin history of English literature: V. 9, American literature. Penguin
Books (1988)
Lee, B., American Fiction 1865-1940. Longman (1987)
Ruland, R., & Bradbury, M., From puritanism to postmodernism, Penguin Books (1991)
Waggoner, H. H., American poets. From the puritans till the present. Louisiana State
University Press (1984)
Anna Letowt-Vorbek
In at the Deep End – Learning on The Job and How to Survive as an Alien
Hello! How did I get here?
Unlike the majority of my colleagues at NKJO, I am not a highly qualified or academic
teacher, unless you consider seven years of experience as a type of ‘uncertified’ qualification.
It is true, that no amount of theoretical background can prepare you for what life in TESOL
and a possible new life abroad are really like in a practical sense, I’m making assimilation here
to the fact that most studies in Higher Education in any country are classroom-based lectures
or seminars, which often require much preparation and hypothesising by the students given
their acquired theoretical knowledge of a subject, whether this is gained from reading books
or listening to experts. I do know this from experience having graduated in Mathematics and
Media Studies from Christchurch College, Canterbury, England in 1992 and completion of a
further Diploma in Advanced Education from the University of Manchester, England. But who
can tell you what it’s REALLY like out there, apart from people with REAL experience.
Why teaching and why TEFL?
Scene - The early 1980s, an all girls’ school somewhere in south-east England.
Mr Careers Advisor:
So, any ideas what you want to do after your ‘O’ levels?
I was thinking about Cartography; maps and things.
Mr Careers Advisor:
Hmm, I’m not sure a score of 13% in your Geography mock
is condusive to your being considered for further training in
that skill. Have you thought about hairdressing...
Close Scene
My own career path to TEFL looks something like this:
Country Bumpkin, Farmhand and Shepherd(ess)
Farm Secretary with promotion to Computer Room Supervisor
Studies in Mathematics and Media
Hospital Auxilliary
Corporate Administration Manager
I think what I’m trying to say is this, that not only am I fortunate to come from a cultural
and social environment which allows me to change my career direction should I chose to do
so, but I know for sure what I do NOT want to do. And the fact that I’ve remained in this
particular job for far longer than any other speaks for itself. For anyone with a lot of energy,
who requires variety and constant mental stimulation, this has to be the perfect job.
One small step at a time
As an enthusiastic and newly qualified TEFL Teacher, I first arrived in Poland in January
of 1999 to teach Business English to adults in Racibórz. It didn’t occur to me at the time
to question the sudden, unexplained departure of the previous teacher on the grounds of
‘personal circumstances’, but for sure my one-month intensive TESOL course completed in
October 1998 at City College Manchester, could not have prepared me for what was to come.
Whilst the idea of teaching each of the three group for two hours every day of the week didn’t
overwhelm me, it was the apparent lack of resources and support that left me full of doubts
about not only the organisation of the course, but more worryingly about my own abilities as
a new teacher. What was I to do and how could I possibly survive?
What I hadn’t banked on was how fantastic my adult students would be and totally supportive
of my plight and so-called mission. We found ourselves (I say ‘we’ because it was a co-operation
between myself and them) without the basic resources necessary to undertake an intensive
course; they lacked half the course books, we never quite managed a cassette-player, and it
was nigh-on impossible to get photocopies made at any less than a week’s notice! Although
I undoubtedly came across the odd one-or-two students who seemed more than intent on
proving me wrong or undermining my abilities as a newly-qualified teacher, the majority of
them were clearly on my side and somehow we got through it together, and I was in fact then
invited back to provide a private course for a further month later that year.
The following two years were extremely valuable for me, as I was offered a position at
a private language school where of course the money is not only better, but I was entrusted
with a wide range of learners from children aged 10 to ‘mature’ students 60+, all skills, all
levels, with sufficient materials and support. I found myself developing into an enthusiastic
and resourceful teacher - given any material, I could create a lesson from it. Wasted hours
poring over lessons plans? Not me, my best ideas came to me in the shower, or doing the
shopping or whilst walking to school or during the break before the next class.
By this time, my Polish language skills were also improving, not due to my studying it as
in fact it was impossible to find anyone able to teach Polish as a foreign language, but due
to my being located in a smaller, more secluded town. Quite simply, I had no choice but
to use it as the majority of adult residents were conversant in Russian or German as second
languages. I immersed myself in Polish films (what else is there to do when it’s minus 15
outside and the winter lasts nearly half a year!), especially those shown on Polonia with the
additional advantage of English subtitles. As the observant readers amongst you may have
noticed, I am in fact of Polish origin on my father’s side, and although this didn’t teach me
any Polish language skills as such I am a great believer when methodologists say that the
formative years are crucial for exposure to a foreign language, because it must be something
to do with the fact that my father and grandfather conversed in Polish with each other that
allowed me to acquire an ‘ear’ for the language that I was able to later utilise after a thirty
year sabbatical.
I then made what was to be what was considered by some to be a contraversial and
somewhat unwise decision to work at a state high school. On the one hand, I found myself
in a position of being respected and appreciated, being the first (and as far as I know the only
one to date) Native Speaker employed full-time at that particular high school. On the other,
I was frequently questioned and criticised by other Native Speakers for making a decision to
take a more than 50% cut in salary to take up this post. In conclusion I have to say that I have
never regretted that move as I found myself working with the brightest, most motivated and
hard-working students I had ever met - as opposed to those who were often forced to attend
lessons at private school by their parents, and consistently produced a variety of well-recognised
excuses concerning their not having books with them one day, or that they had forgotten to do
their homework another day, and so on. I also learned to teach in a completely different way,
meaning my professionalism and attention to planning and explanation. For the least paid of
all of my jobs it proved to be the most valuable, or even invaluable for the future.
As a young(er) and naive Brit Abroad, I was making every effort to get involved in as many
things as possible, that is to be seen offering my ‘language skills’ to anyone and everyone for
whatever purpose. In short, I couldn’t say ‘no’, and lived to mildly regret this when in my
fourth year in Poland I realised I was suddenly very tired. And the reason I was suddenly
very tired was because I had somehow agreed to teach at two high schools (one full-time and
one part-time post) and two secondary schools (a few hours per week), courses at university
(full-time in one day per week) and college (more or less a half-time post) which also involved
commuting 1 1/2 hours in each direction, plus a handful of private lessons, proofreading...get
the picture? The total hours I was working per week for that particular year was something
between 55-60, not including travelling, time for checking papers and sourcing materials, let
alone allowing myself to eat, sleep and undertake normal everyday tasks such as shopping
and maintaining my apartment!
Sadly, the day came when I had to decide whether to stay in Racibórz and give up
travelling, or take the plunge and relocate to Opole after two years of commuting. For sure,
the possibilities to make progress in my profession are much greater here in Opole, along with
the chance to attend further academic studies at the University and gain recognised professional
qualifications such as those in Pedagogics and Methodology. It was even possible to find a
properly trained teacher of Polish as a foreign language, and although I do not currently attend
lessons my bookshelf is groaning under the weight of books specially written and published
by Universitas for such learners (do you Poles have ANY idea how difficult it is to learn all
those rules concerning conjugation and declination!)
These days, I no longer have the luxury of Polonia, in fact I haven’t possessed a tv for over
2 years now, by choice. But with constant access to the internet I have unlimited resources
available to me which not only allows me to keep my own English Language skills tuned
to current topics and developments in English as a World Language, but also improves my
written Polish even if only through being able to chat to friends online using Gadu-Gadu. I’m
also taking more and more work for translation, only Polish to English currently, but on any
subject and at any level to give me as much exposure to the language in use. I’m passionate
about books, I can devour a three hundred page novel in a weekend (in English) and am quite
happy to read something in Polish for three or four hours intensively.
I also discovered that some of my father’s cousins are still living in Warsaw. It’s a sad but
common fact that after the Uprising and due to so many Poles migrating to so many different
countries and continents that whole families lost touch with each other, so I see this as some
kind of small miracle that it has been possible to establish this contact. My grandfather was
one of eight children, and his parents are the original link here as my living ‘aunts’ are his
nieces, my father’s cousins. Recently, for the first time, I was able to look at a photograph of
this noble and gentle-looking man who was my great-grandfather, along with my grandfather
with all his siblings in one image, dated sometime around 1910.
Whilst living in Racibórz, it was also possible by some amazing coincidence to have
access to a book written by an ancestor of ours in around 1630, a certain Maciej Lettow who
was physician to the Polish royal household – it was by sheer chance that a friend’s husband
recognised my surname and, being an expert in this period of Polish history, was able to place
a copy of this book in my hands which he possesses in his private library. I had indeed heard
about this book previously through an uncle who has spent a lot of time and effort tracing
this complicated and vast family history. But I cannot describe that moment in words in any
language, it was like being handed a key to a time-gate, as if it made complete sense that I had
been drawn to this place. My goal is to be able to understand the old Polish style of writing
well enough to fully appreciate Maciej’s memoires one day.
In addition, I acquired a dog, or rather he appeared on my doorstep one day last summer,
looking hungry and neglected, hung out for the weekend getting fed and generally pampered
and decided to stay. Contrary to my colleagues’ suggestions to teach Blackie (well, he is
black!) English, I talk to and instruct him in Polish, although to be honest I don’t know if he’d
notice any difference as of course we assume that such animals respond to tone and implication
rather than specific words. He’s a linguist’s ideal work in progress for a case study.
And that’s the end of the story. There’s nothing more to tell, except this; that I did survive.
But if you were to ask me HOW, then I can only say it was a combination of sheer determination
not to be beaten by the challenge, and a sudden realisation that I was doing something I enjoyed
that got me to the position where I am today, teaching Practical Writing to Third Year (that’s
equivalent to Proficiency Level) in an Institute of Higher Education, via the aforementioned
intensive Business English, a stint at private language school, an expedition into public
education at secondary and high schools, and finally this. Just don’t ask me what’s next, for
now I’m happy to take a breather and rest at this point to enjoy the view.
Is teaching for me?
Teaching really is a vocation, having tried a few different jobs prior to teaching I am
fairly convinced of this; I really believe you can either do it or you can’t. Perhaps there’s an
element of luck involved; I’m also fortunate that as a Native Speaker I am able to pick from
an overwhelming range of possibilities concerning which environment and at what level I am
happiest performing my job. The truth is, that for many teachers in their own countries this is
not the case, and too often I have met those who are disillusioned by the lack of support within
their institutions, or the ‘glass ceiling’ which exists between the levels of education which
make it difficult, for example, for a teacher at High School to move into Higher Education,
although of course it’s never a problem for those coming from the latter to the former.
Having worked with teacher trainees the last few years now, I think the only answer is to
try it yourself; if you don’t try you’ll never know. By the time our students have finished their
Teaching Practice they have a good idea whether or not it’s something they want to pursue
and the possibilities open to them. Yes, of course teaching little kids at primary school is
not going to maintain the level of proficiency you acquire whilst studying at NKJO, then it’s
up to you to find ways of keeping those language skills at the highest level possible, with
exposure to higher level language in use – private lessons, translations, reading, or perhaps
even working and living in an English speaking country for a period of time. All the time
there are more and more possibilities for our students to choose what they want to do with
their English, whether it be by accessing information on the internet or having the freedom
to move between countries in the newly-expanded European Union.
TESOL certainly did not prepare me for a position in Higher Education. As a Native Speaker,
such a qualification really is a ‘passport to the world’, and I certainly never imagined I’d never
make it any further than Poland on my own round-the-world trip. Being a Native Speaker
does not make you an expert in your language either, we didn’t learn about the structural and
grammatical aspects of our language at high school, we were only told when we had made a
mistake and were expected to understand the corrections. Therefore, my whole journey into
Higher Education has been a massive learning experience for me, and I mostly have my former
students and employers to thank for this, for their patience and for their believing in me.