16. Critical and Creative Thinking

9 08 2010

Mr. Cray Staggs of the  US Department of State, Senior English Language Fellow for Beijing delivered a lecture on  Critical and Creative Thinking during the Fifth International and Forty-first Annual ELT@I  Conference, organized by the Department of English, Anna Adarsh College for Women, Anna Nagar, Chennai from 5th to 7th August 2010.

The following are excepts from his lecture:

Critical and Creative thinking is a necessary skill for everyone.  Creative thinking can be  seen as creating many possible solutions to a problem situation. Critical thinking  can be seen as being able to test, assess and evaluate the possible solution. What is important is to help and  encourage  our learners to ask questions. A healthy skepticism and  a curious mind is essential for learners.

* The critical thinker would be more interested in focussing on :

   clarity vs  unclear                 precision vs  imprecision               specific vs vague

Given below are examples of  tasks that involve thinking:

* Conducting a debate about an issue of special interest  ( Analyse / synthesize)

* Write a biography of a person you are studying about (Recall knowledge/ Comprehend/ Apply)

* Create a new product, name it and plan  a marketing campaign (Application / Synthesis)

* Design a questionnaire  to gather information ( Application/ Analysis/ Synthesis)

The pedagogical implication  for including Critical and Creative thinking would be the following :

* We need to have in our curriculum scope for problem-based tasks and encourage open ended questions

* Teachers should focus on classroom dynamics

* The classroom tone is also important

* The kind of questions asked by the teacher is very important.

Incorporating and ensuring the teaching of critical thinking skills should be regarded as essential  in educational programmes. English and foreign language courses should advocate classroom design that promotes not only language skills but also creative and critical thinking skills. For the EFL educator its application would mean  making learners seek alternatives, make inferences, pose questions and solve problems.


15. Texting and Fossilization

28 07 2010


Ms. Meera Baby, faculty of Govt. College, Kanjirmkulam,  presented  a paper entitled ‘Texting and Fossilization’ at the International Seminar  on Innovative English Language Teaching organized by the Centre for English Language Teaching, University of Kerala and the Government College For Women, Trivandrum on 26th  July 2010. The following  are notes prepared  during the presentation:

  • Texting is a colloquial term referring to the exchange of brief written message.
  • There has been a hike in texting over the years. For instance the number of text messages sent during 2001 was 250 billion and in 2004 it was 500 billion!
  • We have to admit that text message is the new lingo.
  • Texting forces us to morph our language. There is a tendency to be economic for the more the words the more the charge.


Some sample SMS forms

10X                 for thanks

4                      for   for

MSG                for message

UR                   for your

GUD                for good

HV                   for have

L8R                 for later

NY1                for anyone

YruL8              for Why are you late?

RU                   for Are you?

  • A study done in the University of  California shows that the written language of those who do a lot of texting is poor.
  • David Crystal’s  book titled ‘txtng : the gr8 db8’  (Texting : The Great Debate) states that the language of texting doesn’t make people bad communicators, but  makes people good at language. The presenter displayed the following poem written in texting style  originally from David Crystal’on her PowerPoint slide.


A txt msg pom

his is r bunsn brnr bl%

his hair lyk fe filings

w  ac/dc  going thru

I sit to  him in kemistry,

it splits my @oms

When he -:) @ me

               Julia Bird

  • We need to realize  that a stage comes when we are not able to overcome the habit of using textism. It leads to fossilization- a rather permanent phenomenon of a learner’s interlanguage getting stuck at any stage during the Target language (TL) learning process.


Before ending the presentation with a  ‘10X 4 ur time’ statement,   the following was displayed with  a caricature of Shakespeare with a speech bubble : Ah Twitter

2 b/nt

2 b

dtz d


14. An Appraisal of Methods and Approaches Used For Teaching English in Kerala

28 07 2010

Ms. Vani, a faculty of Govt. College, Kanjiramkulam, presented  her appraisal of the Methods and Approaches of teaching English in Kerala based on the data she collected from educational institutions. It was presented  as a paper at the  International Seminar  on Innovative English Language Teaching organized by the Centre for English Language Teaching, University of Kerala and the Government College For Women, Trivandrum on 26th  July 2010. The following are notes prepared during the presentation:

  • Teachers do not endorse one method alone.
  • One method/ approach alone does not suffice and  we need an eclectic approach
  • We need to use vocabulary to suit the level of the student and mother tongue should be used to explain the meanings of difficult words.
  • We should use plenty of teaching aids.
  • Writing skills need to be given due attention.
  • The 1: 25 teacher student ratio is the best.
  • A coordination in curricular transaction between, the primary, secondary, Higher Secondary  and Under Graduate courses is essential.
  • Cluster workshops tend to be a failure owing to political intervention.

13. Use of Rhymes for Ecological Awareness

28 07 2010

Ms. Vishu, a fourth semester student of the MA Degree course of the University of Kerala,   made her first ever seminar presentation  at the  at the International Seminar  on Innovative English Language Teaching organized by the Centre for English Language Teaching, University of Kerala and the Government College For Women, Trivandrum on 26th  July 2010.

 The following  are notes prepared  during the presentation:

The PowerPoint  presentation had the following lines from Wordsworth as  the first content slide:

One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man,

Of moral evil and of good

Than all the sages can.

The Tables Turned (1798)

From notes prepared  during the presentation:

  • Environments/seasons  shape the temperament of individuals. So it is important to help children have a better understanding of nature and its elements. One way of doing it is to include pictures of seeds, plants, trees, flowers etc in the text book.
  • Another way is to use rhymes.Given below is one such rhyme:

If I were an apple

And grew on a tree

I think I’d drop down

On a nice boy like me

Giving nobody joy

I’d fall down at once

And say, “Eat me, my boy!”

  • Rhymes also illustrate appropriate social roles. For instance, they can kindle love for animals and other living beings. They can also help develop moral responsibility to protect Mother Nature.

12. Use of Comics and Music in ELT

28 07 2010

Ms. Saritha G, an alumni of Govt. College for Women, Trivandrum, presented a paper entitled The Use of Comics and Music for Teaching English during the International Seminar on Innovative English Language Teaching organized by the Centre for English Language Teaching, University of Kerala and the Government College For Women, Trivandrum on 26th July 2010. The following are notes prepared during the presentation.

• Though comics and music are forms of enjoyment and have been used in foreign universities, it is not popular in India. It can help bring real issues into the classroom.

• Comics have a perfect combination of visual and linguistic element and is appealing.

• We know that printed texts force us to use dictionary regularly and it can become stumbling blocks for readers. Comics usually use simple language. • Comics are affordable and easily accessible.

• The real advantage of comics is that real life is portrayed in novel and ingenious ways.

• The portrayal of crime, horror, and the negative and sexist messages found in some comics have led many teachers to discourage its use.

• Music appeals to the affective domain. It is closely related to the multimodality of language instruction. It startles the senses.

• According to Waldorf , songs and poems are best for oral learning.

11. Error Engagement

13 05 2010

[Originally published in  ELT Chat  of  http://www.Free_esl.com]



Traditionally the teacher’s role had been that of a  judge – a critical evaluator of the finished product. The legendary red pen was employed profusely before returning the corrected product. In this activity, the teacher provides a collection of erroneous sentences to provoke interesting responses. The author believes that such an approach can reduce the negative impact of the red pen and make  learners communicate effectively with a better control of appropriate vocabulary.


Learner motivation can be created, generated and maintained using the following type of   sentences as resources. It’s a feasible solution for teachers who have a frustrating experience in terms of waning student motivation  during  writing  or  reading tasks.


Read the erroneous  sentences given below. Students in pairs, with the help of a good dictionary  should identify the exact meaning of the sentences:


* The  Germans surreptitiously dug a tunnel through a mole hill.

*The King fisher  collided with an aero plane.

*A swine swam  the English Channel

*The minister presented him with a Siamese swine.

*He is a great cook and fried flies are his specialty.

*Some simpletons believe that a steady diet of calf’s milk  increases virility.

* Henry loves eggs , so he ordered his cat to lay eggs.

*He hates cold bath so licks himself clean everyday.

*He is very courageous he is afraid of daylight.

A note on evaluation

* Obviously the kind of answers tend to vary depending on the way the learners comprehend the sentences. Credit should however be given for those who can justify why  a particular sentence is incorrect.

10. They Can’t … They Shan’t

13 05 2010

 [Originally published in ELT Chat of http://www.Free_esl.com on 15th August 2007, the day India celebrated its sixtieth year of Independence] ]

Half a century ago an Indian scholar of repute, C. Rajagopalachari, made the following statement. : “We in our anger and the hatred against the British people should not throw away the baby (English) with the bath water (English People) Years have passed and ELT in India received several jolts . The following composition attempts to capture the essence of the impact.

Neither Can’t nor Shan’t

We shouldn’t ….we cannot Speak like the Britisher

 Said the Raja to the Praja

And the Raja sprayed an Indian flavour

And the Praja preferred the Indian savour

Shun RP….Shun King’s English

Shun BBC accent….Shun Daniel Jones

Are slogans that echoes and re-echoes.

And shun and spun they did indeed …

Spun Hinglish , Spun Manglish

 And other inglishes to ones ease

 What Shakespeare ….What Joyce

What choice for ‘em without poise

They shan’t teach …they won’t teach

But they’ll teach… who can’t teach!


 Glossary Raja: The renowned Indian writer whose writing smacked of an Indian idiom Praja: The word in most Indian languages means the public/ the citizens.