Friday, October 28, 2011

They sell books in supermarkets, don't they?

by David Lloyd

This blog entry was borrowed, with permission, from David Lloyd's blog - Why I May Still Be Canadian.
Originally from Canada, David has been living most of his adult life in Israel. David has been teaching EFL and working with computers in education for the past 30 years. He founded ETNI in 1996.
David's first novel - As I Died Laughing - has been published as an e-book.
A well known Israeli writer is selling his new book exclusively through an Israeli supermarket chain. There, nestled between the carrots and tomatoes, you can pick up his book and add it to your cart of groceries. How is he doing so far? He has already sold over 50,000 copies of his book - which is quite good in such a small country as Israel.  Why did he choose to sell his new book only in this one supermarket chain? He apparently read the writing on the wall. More and more bookstores are closing. Those which are still open have entered into a price war, and as a result - books are marked down by more than 70% and it is impossible for an author to make any real money from his writing. Is his decision then a protest, or is he simply giving in to the inevitable?

We live in an age where e-books are becoming more and more popular, and many people fear that they will replace the hardcover book altogether. Will only online bookstores survive and the library shelves now be filled with e-readers? And if there still is such a thing as the hardcover - will this be nestled somewhere in the supermarket? Attention shoppers. There is a special sale of fresh books in aisle 5. And what about the author? Will he be sitting in the dairy section signing books? Maybe they will leave it up to each author to decide where in the supermarket he wants to set up his table. For some, the pastry and desserts section would serve quite well. Others may prefer coffee and tea. And others may resign themselves to the vegetables. Will your place in the supermarket define you?

Or does it really matter? Surely the idea is the essence, and how it is housed is of secondary importance. Once upon a time, such things were literally written in stone. A rather tedious and slow operation. And then ink was invented and each book was painstakingly written out by hand. And if you wanted a copy of the book, that too had to be written out by hand. And then along came the printing press. There must have been a lot of opposition to that. Mass producing ideas through automation. How could anything good come out of automation? But, like most things, it didn’t take long for us to forget what came before and we soon began romanticizing the notion of the mass produced book. Or maybe the romanticizing only came when the book appeared to be in danger of extinction. Think of it - we are not even left with something we can hold in our hands! How crass. Well, actually you can hold a kindle in your hands, but what about the smell of leather and the rustling of the pages. (When was the last time we actually held a leather book in our hands - or anything with a hardcover?)

And then some people - those real fanatics - ask why we even need books. Why not let ideas  play out through film. Much more visual and so much  more can be included. Imagination? People want to be entertained, without exerting too much effort on their own part. The demands of imagination is maybe why fewer and fewer people read books these days - even before the first e-book or supermarket haven.

It is quite a mess, actually. At times I ask myself why I couldn’t have published my novel twenty years ago when the rules were much clearer. But then, maybe it is better this way. I actually wrote and published an e-book before reading one. Is there any real irony in this? Would I consider selling my book in a supermarket? But then, how could an e-book be sold in a supermarket? Maybe the back of cereal box could be transformed into an ink based e-reader screen. Different brands offering different books. This isn’t such a revolutionary idea. It wasn’t long ago that you got a free video cassette of a movie together with your six pack of beer. I mean - what do we want as a writer? To reach the widest and largest number of readers possible - no? I see some of you shaking your heads.

I have actually begun to write a screenplay for my book. Not so much because I want to quickly reach a wider audience, but rather because I realized that Gwyneth Paltrow will soon be too old to play the main female part (she was quite young when I first started writing the book). But I digress.

One day, probably not in the too distant future, young people will remark - upon hearing about bookstores - “What a quaint idea. A whole store just for selling books. But how could anyone make a living just out of selling books?”

Or by writing them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Inviting Outside Speakers to Writing Courses

by Gilda Haber, PhD

Gilda Haber, PhD
Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park. Professor of English and ESOL at Montgomery College. Teaches sociology, social psychology, criminology, assists PhD foreign students with English composition and writing. Research includes human spatial position and behavior to profile individual attitudes to the group. Writes and publishes scholarly articles, creative non-fiction, fiction and memoir. Writing awards from Ferguson, Scorched Earth, and other contests.

Students in English 101, an introductory English course at MC, are required to write at least four essays: a Narrative, Compare and Contrast, Cause and Effect and a Research Essay.  My students besides taking a full load also work. EN101 is a required course; students do not necessarily come inspired to learn English writing and rhetoric especially in a Friday late afternoon, 160 minute class. Consequently students, many of whom are not native speakers, need a variety of teaching strategies to keep them engaged.

The strategies I have used often included ten minutes of free-writing, critical readings, awareness of outside audience attitudes, peer group review of essays, reporting possible improvements on peer writing (names removed) revisions, and voluntary verbal and board presentation of work to the class. We also view film documentaries relevant to the goals of the class, critique bias in films, and I have invited several outside speakers.

My purpose in inviting speakers was to provide the class with eye-witnesses accounts of major world events or with experts to increase exposure to a wide range of topics, to hone skills in listening, encourage feedback, ask questions, critique, observe bias, encourage independent thinking, develop research and writing skills besides formatting techniques used to thank our speakers. (One student wrote me a thank you letter for an enjoyable semester.)  These skills were all required both in written form and or in class discussion. After all speakers were heard, questions asked and answered, I asked students to free-write their reaction to speakers, engage in class discussion and practice critiquing skills. Over the semester, in-class and assigned writing at home with revisions achieved a marked improvement in student writing.  Speakers added another strategy to student writing. How were speakers selected?

I did not randomly select speakers, but selected them on the basis of four criteria. First, the speaker before the Narrative Essay had to have been an eye-witness to a major event that would be a good basis for a narrative.  Second, the speaker needed to frame his or her talk toward requirements of the upcoming essay. Each speaker was given the same written outline given students as a guide. Speakers always came to class prepared to follow the outline given them. Speakers thus provided a training ground for students’ essays of their own choice.  Third, speakers had to have experience in public speaking and fourth, speakers were asked to bring documents and graphics and or statistical or research material related to their talk. This last request was used to acquaint students with documentation and research methods.

For the Narrative Essay, I invited Ness Godin, honorary MC Degree recipient. Ms. Godin is a Holocaust survivor, whose eye-witness experience fitted in well with requirements for the Narrative Essay. Also, since Holocaust survivors are mostly in their eighties, it is important to hear their eye-witness testimony before they disappear.  Ms. Godin is an internationally acclaimed survivor who speaks world-wide for the Holocaust Museum and who has been invited to speak at the United Nations.  She vividly narrated her Holocaust experience: character, tension with change from normal to Nazi concentration camp day-to-day survival, a death march, and the encouragement of other women survivors. Her final message: “Do not stand by apathetically when any group of people is targeted for genocide. Help victims.”  Students in free-write wrote that they were “touched” “impressed” “horrified” “amazed,” “honored” and “privileged” to hear her speak.  They had heard and read about the Holocaust in high school but had never seen nor heard a live Holocaust speaker: a “totally different experience.”  “I will from now on aid others I see attacked like those in Darfur, as Ms. Godin asked us to do.” Ms. Godin also showed photographs of herself as a child, and of her murdered family, photos acquired from distant relatives long after the war.  Students went up to Ms. Godin after her talk, and hugged her. After this inspiring speaker students wrote feedback on Ms. Godin’s speech and then they began drafting their own Narrative essay.  Students learned a new social and writing skill as they were required to write thank-you letters to each speaker.  Many had never heard of a thank-you letter!  Speakers loved receiving these student letters.

Our second essay was Compare and Contrast. Since we had studied and heard a renowned speaker on the Holocaust, I showed a documentary on Hiroshima, and we compared and contrasted the Holocaust with Hiroshima. I was able to find a speaker on Nagasaki, Ms. Alice Stephens, who is writing a historical novel, and who has lived in and taught English in Nagasaki. Since we had compared and contrasted the Holocaust with Hiroshima, Ms. Stephens further broadened our horizons by addressing the class on the cause and effect of bombing Nagasaki. Her research included surprising information on prejudice against Nagasaki victims or their descendants.  Residents fear that the offspring or grandchildren of such victims might be born with physical disabilities due to their forebears’ exposure to radiation. Here, we looked back on our comparison of the Holocaust with the bombings of Japan. Population- and long-term-wise, the global Jewish population has decreased, while that of Nagasaki has increased and become normal. The physical and emotional effects of the Holocaust have affected second generation, i.e. the children of Holocaust survivors. No findings were presented on the emotional effect, if any, of second generation Nagasaki victims.

These topics and their presenters, according to student written feedback, have deeply enriched student experience in thinking and writing essays. The ethical implications surrounding each of the topics prepare EN101 students for the next class EN102: Argument.
For a more concrete and modern researched topic in preparation for the Cause and Effect essay, I chose a speaker skilled and experienced in medicine. Here, there is much research and statistical information.  I asked Dr. John Melmed to speak to the class on the cause and effect of any illness or condition of his choice. I gave Dr. Melmed the outline of our Cause and Effect essay and asked him to also provide the class with handouts that included graphics and statistics.  Dr. Melmed chose to speak on and provided handouts including statistics on the causes and effects of osteoporosis and of teenage abortion. These two topics engaged the students in current conditions that also concern them personally. It appears that osteoporosis can begin at a very young age, and most teenagers or young students like ours are aware of the risks of pregnancy and abortion.  They were less aware of the dangers of birth control pills that Dr. Melmed documented with figures and charts. The class enjoyed Dr. Melmed’s talk, asked him many questions and also wrote him a thank-you letter.

Research methods were introduced with the Compare and Contrast Essay so that students learned early to include MLA documentation, statistics, graphics and a bibliography. 

Having several speakers during a semester greatly widens student exposure to independent thinking. Writing about their experience with each speaker immediately after hearing the speaker hones student thinking and critique writing skillsRevision of all submitted written work improves basic writing skills.  Using all of these strategies for a practice essay prior to the student’s own essay provides students with the opportunity to practice a dry- run before writing their own drafted and final essays.

Writing a final essay causes many students stress. A warm-up with a speaker, a written critique and class discussion helps students tackle each new essay with less tension, more insight, enthusiasm and expertise.  These varied strategies also provide material for students’ Reflective Essay at the end of the semester.

In listening to other speakers, students also felt encouraged to present the class with their own drafts and final essays, and to engage class response to their essays. These experiences will stand them in good stead in their future working and social lives.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Social Psychology and ELT – The HALO Effect

by Nick Michelioudakis

(This article was originally published in the TESOL Greek Newsletter.)

Nick Michelioudakis (B. Econ., Dip. RSA, MSc [TEFL]) is an Academic Consultant with EDEXCEL.  He has worked in the field of ELT for many years as a teacher, examiner and trainer. He has written more than 50 articles and regularly gives talks to both private and state school teachers.  He likes to think of himself as a ‘front-line teacher’ and is particularly interested in one-to-one teaching and student motivation. He also has a keen interest in Social and Evolutionary Psychology.  When he is not struggling with students, he likes to spend his time in a swimming pool or playing chess.  For any questions, comments or feedback, you can contact him at To see more of his published articles you can visit his site at

How important is one’s handwriting?  Hardly at all you might say, especially today when most people use a computer.  Yet research shows otherwise.  In a revealing experiment, a number of exam scripts were copied twice – once in good handwriting and once in bad handwriting.  They were then passed on to two groups of examiners who were told to mark them and were specifically instructed to mark for content.  Amazingly, the neatly-written scripts got significantly higher marks than the others (Sutherland 1992).  Why did such a thing happen?  The answer is that very often when we have to assess someone (or something) and this person has a salient, positive feature, the latter colours our judgment, so we tend to make all kind of positive attributions about this person, judgments which are at best only marginally related to the quality which stands out.  This is called the ‘Halo Effect’.

An experiment: One would expect the scientific world to be less susceptible to such an effect.  Not so.  In 1982, two psychologists decided to try out an interesting experiment.  They selected 12 well-known journals of psychology and to each one they sent an article to be considered for publication.  These articles are routinely checked by two authorities on the particular field as well as the editor.  The results: in 8 out of the 12 cases the articles were deemed unworthy of publication.  Out of 16 ‘evaluators’ and 8 editors who (presumably) read them, not a single one had a different view.  Well, one might say, not all articles submitted are up to par.  This is true, only in this case these particular articles had been published by the very same journals, under the same title only a few months previously!!  The only thing the two psychologists had changed were the names of the authors (eminent university professors) to imaginary ones and their affiliations (originally such prestigious universities as Harvard or Princenton) to non-existent (and by definition obscure) ones!  Well, you might think, at least 4 of the articles were thought to be good.  Not quite.  In 3 out of the 4 cases someone simply realised that they had published this material before… (Sutherland 1992)
Why did such a thing happen?  The answer is probably that journals like the above are probably inundated by submissions from academics on the make who are anxious to add yet another entry to their CV.  It is equally likely that many of these articles are run-of-the-mill, with little to recommend them.  This being so, it makes sense for the ‘evaluators’ to resort to ‘shortcuts’ (Cialdini 2001) – rather than scrutinize each script, they look at the name of the writer first.  If s/he is a famous professor from an Ivy-League University, then the article is more likely to be worthy of publication.  But if we start thinking like this, then an amazing change happens: as Sutherland (1992) points out, when faced with a piece of work by an established writer, we tend to look for its positive aspects, while if the writer’s name rings no bells then we start looking for flaws!
Still not convinced?  Here is another example.  In the mid-70s, someone sent a book to no less than 27 different publishers and literary agents.  No marks for guessing what happened.  All 27 rejected it.  Yet this book (‘Steps’ by Kosinsky) had actually been published in 1969 and had won the American National Book Award!  All that had been changed was the title and the name of the writer.  What is more remarkable is that one of the publishers who rejected the ‘new book’ was ‘Random House’ – the ones who had published the original one!! (ibid.)
Lest you should think that this phenomenon is restricted to the world of books and publishing, here are some more examples to show you just how widespread it is:  Good-looking people are universally thought to be friendlier, more intelligent and more humorous, tall people are thought to have all kind of leadership qualities, they are clearly favoured in job interviews and make more money than people like me who are slightly challenged in the vertical dimension, and, of course, men of a high social status are judged as more attractive by women…(Brehm, Kassin & Fein 2002).

Applications in the field of teaching:  If we can create for ourselves this ‘aura’ of the competent/charismatic/special teacher, then we are halfway towards winning the battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of our students.  Here are some ideas:
Friendliness:  When I ask my students to describe the best teacher they know, they almost invariably mention someone possessing this quality.  When I try to probe deeper to see what it is about their method that is so special, my students are often stumped.  It is because attitude is such a salient feature that it colours the students’ perception of the teacher both as an individual and as a professional (for research on this very theme, see Alberson, Frey & Gregg 2004, p. 8)
First impressions:  Teachers often ‘save’ their best techniques for later – a big mistake in my view.  By using your favourite materials/techniques early on, you create a positive impression in the students’ minds which will pre-dispose them favourably towards all your subsequent lessons.  The tendency of first impressions to ‘stick’ has been demonstrated again and again (Fine 2005)
Professionalism:  Little details like being prepared, giving an outline of your lesson in advance, revising what you did the previous time, showing students that there is a continuity in your sessions – all these create an impression of ‘professionalism’ and they are more observable than, say, a profound activity sequence (Lewis & Hill 1992). The point is that once you have acquired a reputation as a ‘true professional’, this reputation precedes you and everything you do will then be seen in this light!
Success:  Unfortunately perhaps, teachers too are judged by results.  This is particularly true in the case of 1-1 lessons.  Consequently, there is a lot to be said for ‘blowing your own trumpet’.  This will create an expectation of success which boosts the students’ confidence and acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy (Dornyei 2001).
Titles:  As I have said in other articles and as the above experiment clearly demonstrates, titles like ‘MSc’, ‘PhD’ etc. never fail to impress people about your competence – so if you have them, flaunt them!  (On how effective this ‘aura’ can be, see also Goldstein, Martin & Cialdini 2007).  Similarly, if you happen to work for a prestigious institution, then mention it to your students.  I remember how people’s faces used to light up when I told them I was an Oral Examiner for the British Council!
Looks:  At the cost of repeating myself, the importance of being good-looking can hardly be exaggerated.  Not only does this quality affect the ‘marks’ one gets in virtually all other fields, but there is evidence that this positive pre-disposition of others actually elicits all kind of positive behaviours from them (Aronson 1999).  The moral is clear: it pays to work on your appearance!

What about ELT?  So, what about our field?  Are there any elements which can create a ‘Halo Effect’?  Yes, there are - two of them: a) Your passport and b) your accent.  Let me explain.  I believe that if would-be employers receive 2 identical CVs, one from a native speaker and another from a Greek teacher, there are many cases when only the former will be short-listed.  I believe that if two Greek EFL teachers go through an interview and one of them has a native-like accent while the other one does not, then the former is far more likely to be hired, even if the latter has better qualifications/more experience.  And I am certain that (ceteris paribus) native speakers are on average better paid when it comes to private lessons.  Now, I do not have any hard evidence for all this, but I am prepared to bet good money that all 3 hypotheses are true.  Anyone for research?


1.  Abelson, R., Frey, K. & Gregg, A. “Experiments With People” Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 2004
2.  Aronson, E. “The Social Animal”  Worth – Freeman, 1999
3.  Brehm, S., Kassin, S. & Fein S. “Social Psychology” Houghton Mifflin, 2002
4.  Cialdini, R. “Influence – Science and Practice”, Allyn & Bacon 2001
5.  Dornyei, Z. “Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom” CUP, 2001
6.  Fine, C. “A Mind of its Own”  Icon Books 2005
7. Goldstein, N., Martin, S. & Cialdini, R. “Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion” Profile Books 2007
8.  Lewis, M. & Hill, J. “Practical Techniques for Language Teaching”  LTP 1992
9.  Sutherland, S. “Irrationality” Constable and Company, 1992

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The English Parts of Speech - One way of looking at them

by Allan J. Hirshey

Presented below is a quick, handy, and comprehensive reference guide to the English parts of speech.  The guide is addressed to substitute teachers, returning teachers, and part-time tutors, all needing to quickly refresh their knowledge of this subject matter.   It’s easy to remember the names of the parts of speech by using the following mnemonic devices: IVAN CAPP (interjections, verbs, adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, adverbs, prepositions, and pronouns); and/or VIC NAPPA.  Enjoy the guide, and happy teaching!


Definition/Use: names of persons, places, things, animals, actions, quality, and ideas/concepts.

Examples:  Georges Bizet, San Juan, shoe, lion, departure, endurance, science.

 Noun Classifications/Forms:

 (1) Proper (always begins with a capital letter) - “James Fennimore Cooper wrote The Deerslayer.”

 (2) Common (not capitalized, unless the beginning word of a sentence) - “The author was J.D. Salinger.”   

 (3) Concrete (nouns perceived by the five senses - see, hear, smell, touch, or taste) - “Your new jazz compact disk looks and sounds great.”      

 (4) Abstract (nouns not perceived by the five senses, nor measurable) - “His imagination is almost non-existent.”

 (5) Collective (a group of things or people) - “Lady Gaga lost her luggage at the airport.”

 (6) Countable (nouns that can be either singular or plural in form) - “Silver coins and gold ingots went way up in value.”    

 (7) Non-Countable (nouns that cannot be plural in form, no “s” ending) -“All their furniture was made in Taiwan.”  

 (8) Gerunds (infinite verbs ending in “ing”, but functioning as nouns) -“ Knitting is her favorite pastime.”   
 (9) Compound (a noun made up of two or more words) - “We just remodeled our bedrooms and bathrooms.”


Definition/Use:  a part of speech that takes the place of a noun in a sentence.  The noun being replaced by the pronoun is called the “antecedent”.

Examples:  its, he, she, you, their, her, him.

Pronouns Classifications/Forms:

 (1)   Subject Personal (indicates that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the sentence)-   “The culprit was he.” 

 (2)   Object Personal (indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object of a verb or preposition) - “The park ranger gave us two hikers a map of Yosemite National Park.”       

 (3)   Possessive (shows possession and/or ownership, not used with an apostrophe). “The tiger is licking its paws.”

(4)   Indefinite (refers to an identifiable, but not a specific person or thing) -”She donated some antiques to charity.”   

 (5)   Interrogative (a pronoun used to introduce or to ask a question) - “Who wrote the novel Moby Dick?”  

 (6)   Demonstrative (pronouns pointing to and identifying a noun or pronoun) - “This cake looks fresh.”    

 (7)   Reflexive (pronouns ending in “self” or “selves” and performing actions on or for themselves) -“She made a pastrami on rye for herself.”   

(8)    Intensive (pronouns identical in form (ending in “self) to reflexive pronouns appearing above, but used to emphasize their antecedents) - “She made a pastrami on rye for the Vice-President himself.”   

(9)    Relative (pronouns introducing a relative clause and referencing an antecedent) - “The swimmer, whom we admired, won a silver medal.”

(10)  Reciprocal (pronouns used when each of two or more subjects are acting/relating each way to one another) - “Upon landing, the astronauts congratulated one another.” 

(11)  Negative (pronouns indicating the non-existence of people and things, to replace a noun phrase and to make it negative) - “Nobody won the Michigan State lottery.”


Definition/Use:  words that describe nouns or pronouns.

Examples:  purple, several, round, these, Shakespearean, broken, tenth, seven, easiest. 

Adjective Classifications/Forms:

(1)   Descriptive (also called an “attributive” adjective, can be classified into two sub types - simple descriptive and compound descriptive).

(1a)  Simple Descriptive (single or one word describing a noun) - “A huge tidal wave destroyed the marina.”  

(1b)  Compound Descriptive (two adjectives describing the noun) - “Your bluish-green bath tiles look real ritzy.” 

 (2)  Determiners (precede and modify nouns, used to express information about a noun such as definiteness, proximity, relationship, and quantity, sub-categories include articles, quantifiers, demonstratives, numbers, interrogatives, and possessives). 

 (2a)  Articles (the definite article is “the” and the two indefinite articles are “a” and “an”) -“An American diplomat was arrested in Cairo.”  “Please put a pear in the brown bag.”

(2b)  Quantifiers (answers questions how much & how many in general terms) - “Many prisoners escaped.” 

(2c)  Numbers (answers questions how much & how many in specific terms)-“Eighty percent of my class failed physics.”

(2d)  Demonstrative (used to indicate which person or thing is meant) - “Give me all those Cuban cigars!”

(2e)  Possessive (when a possessive pronoun is used to modify the noun following it to show possession, it functions as an adjective)- “That’s her file, but his desk.”

(2f)  Interrogative (another form of possessive pronoun, but asks for more specific identification of a person or thing) - “Whose cell phone is ringing?”

(3)   Relative (a form of possessive pronoun modifying names of persons and things)-“Which tie and jacket are you going to wear tonight?”   

(4)   Comparative (used to compare the differences between two nouns or a collective noun) - “Nike is more well-known in Canada than Nestles.”

(5)   Superlative (used to state something of the highest or the lowest degree) - “The fastest sport on foot is lacrosse.”

(6)    Proper (an adjective requiring capitalization, normally denoting nationality) - “The ladies prefer Irish coffee.”

(7)   Eponymous (a proper adjective derived from a person’s name) - “I study Euclidean geometry and Boolean algebra.”

(8)  Appositives (multiple adjectives used to emphasize noun/ pronoun descriptions, by being placed after them and then set off by commas) - “Their son, smart, arrogant, and wealthy, is the city’s mayor.”

(9)  Participles (verbs used as adjectives, formed from a verb’s present or past participle) - “The time-consuming bar examination wreaked havoc on my nerves.” 


Definition/Use: a word or phrase expressing an action or a state of being.        

Examples: write, catch, imagine, hear, learn, drive, was, dive, shoot, multiply, criticize, open.

Verb Classifications/Forms:

(1)   Main (also called a “lexical” verb, expresses the activity, event, or feeling described in the sentence, its two sub-categories are action verbs and linking verbs).  

(2)   Action (also called a “dynamic” verb, specifies action) - “Dell produces and sells the fastest desk top computers in the world.”

(2a)  Transitive (an action verb taking a direct object - its three sub-types are mono transitive, di transitive, and complex transitive). “George Gershwin composed The Cuban Overture.””

(2a1) Mono Transitive (a transitive verb taking only a single direct object) - “Madame Curie discovered radium.”

(2a2) Di Transitive (a transitive verb taking a direct and an indirect object) - “Queen Isabella gave Columbus three ships.”

(2a3)  Complex Transitive (a transitive verb taking a direct object plus an object complement) - “They chose Otto von Bismarck Chancellor.”

(2a4)  Intransitive (an action verb not taking a direct object) - “At midday, seals lie in the sun.”

(3)     Linking (also called a “copular” verb, doesn’t express an action, but implies a state of being and includes all forms of the verb “to be”) -“He was and still is a selfish person.”

(4)     Helping (also called an “auxiliary” verb, sub-categories are modal & semi-modal, combined with the main verb to create a complete verb) - “You should consider hiring a tutor.”   

(4a)   Modal (a helping verb expressing ability, inclination, or obligation)-“Those teenagers ought to stop smoking.”

(4b)   Semi-Modal (a verb partly like a modal and partly like a “lexical” or full verb) - “We used to smoke pot.”  

(5)    Regular (a verb forming its past tense and past participle by adding “d”, “ed”, and  sometimes “t” to the base form)- “Marcus Crassus captured and then executed Spartacus.”

(6)     Irregular (a verb that doesn’t form its past tense and past participle by adding “d” or “ed”)- “We flew to Orlando.”

(7)     Infinite (a verb whose base form is preceded by “to”) - “I’m here to inquire about your job vacancy.”

(8)     Phrasal (a verb plus a preposition or adverb that changes the meaning to make a new verb) - “His bill adds up to two hundred shekels.”

(9)     Stative (also called a “state” verb, describes a state and feeling, as opposed to an action verb) - “They know about and understand your predicament.”


Definition/Use:  a word which describes or gives more information about a verb, adjective, adverb, or phrase, usually ending in “ly”, and used to indicate manner, time, place, cause or degree.

Examples:  frequently, loudly, in order to, nowhere, now, soon, underground, surely.

Adverb Classifications/Forms:

(1)  Time (describes when something happens) -“Phineas T. Bluster recently discovered ants in his pants.”   

(2) Place (answers the question where) - “John Dillinger was shot inside the mall next to the drugstore.”

(3) Degree (answers questions how much and up to what extent) - “Nebuchadnezzar was extremely wicked.” 

(4) Purpose (answers the question why something happens) - “Tiny Tim detoured, in order to avoid the traffic jam.”

(5) Manner (modifies the verb to describe how the action was done) - “Bonnie and Clyde quickly and quietly escaped.”

(6)  Assertive (telling the speaker’s belief or disbelief in a statement) - “I’m certain that China rules North Korea.”

(7) Frequency (answers the questions how long, how often) -“Her bank publishes its financial reports daily and monthly.”

(8) Conjunctive (an adverb indicating the relationship in meaning between two independent clauses) - “Our attorney didn’t file an injunction; consequently, he lost our zoning case.”

(9) Interrogative (an adverb used to ask a question) - “How did the ancient Aztecs build their pyramid-shaped temples?”  

(10) Comparative (an adverb comparing the difference in amount, quality, and/or degree between two things) - “Usain Bolt runs much faster than his closest competitor.”

(11) Superlative (an adverb expressing something of the highest or lowest degree) - Usain Bolt ran the fastest mile.”


Definition/Use:  a part of speech (sometimes called a “function word”) used to connect words, phrases, and clauses in a sentence. 

Examples:  but, for, not only, since, although, yet, so.  

Conjunction Classifications/Forms:

(1)  Coordinating (connects two or more independent clauses, the mnemonic device used is FANBOYS - for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so) - “Sherlock Holmes loved tea, but he hated crumpets.”  

(2)  Subordinating (joins together a dependent clause and an independent clause) - “Although Joe Louis was a famous heavyweight boxer, he loathed violence.”  

(3) Correlative (also called a “paired” conjunction, and always used in pairs to link equivalent sentence elements) - “Rasputin was neither rich nor poor.”


Definition/Use:  a word used before (pre-positioned) a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun, connecting it to another word, and indicating location, direction, manner, movement, and time.

Examples: at, in, by, across, after, against, underneath, between, beyond, on, through, with.

Preposition Classifications/Forms:

(1) Time (indicating time)-“The community pool is closed until further notice.”

(2) Location (indicates location) - “We took the subway under the Oakland Bay Bridge.”     

(3) Manner (indicates manner) - “He walks like Charlie Chaplin.”

 (4) Direction (indicates direction) - “The track team jogged along the banks of the Susquehanna River.” 

 (5) Movement (indicates movement) - “Boeing’s computer staff moved across the street.”


Definition/Use: a part of speech, capable of standing alone, used to express surprise, emotion, exclamation, or attitude, followed by an exclamation point or a comma. 

Examples:  Ah,  Huh,  Phooey,  Oh,  Yea,  Bah,  Whew,  Wow,  Alas,  Gee,  Golly.

Interjection Classifications/Forms:

(1) Strong (also referred to as “forceful” interjections, set off by exclamation points) - “Ouch!  That hurts!”

(2) Weak (also referred to as “mild” interjections, set off by commas, not by exclamation points) - “Gosh, I’m sorry!”


English vocabulary words can be very versatile.  For example, the word “oil” can be used in noun, verb, adjective, and adverb forms.   “Oil has caused many world conflicts.”  “Mario Andretti oiled his racing car.” “Warren Buffett bought more oil stock.”  “The iguana’s belly felt oily.”  Advantages of learning the parts of speech are gaining a better understanding of their grammatical interrelationships, strengthening teaching self-confidence in the actual classroom setting, and improving writing skills. 

Because of the absence of a central authority regulating English use or grammar, there is no one correct way to sub-categorize the parts of speech.  Consequently, there are other long-standing grammatical disagreements still remaining to be resolved.  A few noteworthy examples are correct comma usage, and whether determiners should be unbundled from adjectives and made an independent speech part heading.  And interestingly, an internet website indicated that some academicians had defrocked the pronoun, by eliminating it as an independent speech part and sub-categorizing it under the noun.  Moreover, in its description of the English parts of speech, another educational website omitted any reference whatsoever to the interjection.  Are there anymore sacred cows out there in “speech part land” awaiting full or near extinction at the “altar?”  If so, will a universally accepted English language authority triumphantly appear and come to their rescue?  Place your bets!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Laptops for every student?

by Andrew Wilson

Dear Colleagues,

I started teaching over twenty years ago, and since then, both as a teacher and a parent, I have seen many projects come and go. I'm sure I'm not alone in this ;)

Some projects were baked to perfection, some were so burnt that they were indigestible, while others, sadly, were quite half-baked. I have no doubt that they were all proposed and implemented with the best of intentions, and I mean this most sincerely.

I recently read an article (I'll include the link below) by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich in the JP about proposed plans for 'school computerization'.  Meir Shitrit, Knesset Science and Technology Committee chairman, is quoted as saying "Parents spend hundreds of shekels annually per pupil on buying schoolbooks, when an inexpensive laptop can be bought and used to download all the books from the Internet." The article then goes on to say that there will be an investment of a billion shekels to buy a new computer for each pupil.

Later on, Gila Ben Har predicted that "parents will pay half the cost of a digital book and will be able to purchase a laptop in easy installments for their children" - which slightly contradicts what MK Shitrit said, but never mind. First of all, if parents are expected to pay for the laptops in easy installments, I can already see the difficulties. At our school, there are many families who cannot afford to pay the regular school fees, never mind intsallments for laptops. Secondly, whether these laptops are supplied by the Ministry of Education or bought by parents, the problems are numerous. Our school buys books and lends them to students. No matter how hard we try to keep those books in good shape, there are always books which arrive back at the library in a very sorry state. There also those that disappear into thin air, and I understand that it is difficult to get parents to pay for their replacement. What will happen when a student breaks, drops or loses his laptop? Will the ministry repair or replace it? If not, I can't see parents doing this. Thirdly, let's assume students come with their laptops. I'm no computer expert, but if hundreds of students use the Internet at the same time, is is possible that this would put a strain on the infrastructure at some point along the line? Our school has one technician - I'm sure he'd be driven crazy in a very short space of time by requests from teachers and students to fix various problems. Finally, I have worked with students using the Internet in our computer room on several occasions and every time I have caught some 'poor lost soul' who found his or her way into Facebook  (or worse!) during the lesson. Imagine being in a class with forty students with their noses deep in their laptops. How much work do you think would really be done?

I also wonder how Ms Ben Har arrived at the conclusion that parents will pay half the cost of a digital book. Assuming that she means that digital books will cost half the price of a regular book (the phrasing is ambiguous in the article), I can't help comparing this to Kindle prices which are not so very much cheaper than regular books.

The article informs us that the ministry "will soon issue a directive to all curriculum developers that their work must be produced as digital as well as printed product". If every student has a laptop, etc., etc., then why do we need printed product? I hope it is not because they foresee problems in certain parts of the country (often referred to as "the periphery")...

It is very easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise, and that is not my intention. While not being a computer wizard, I would hope that I am not totally Neanderthal either. I personally like to teach from a book. I am aware of the need to use computers in school, and of the fact that they can complement books perfectly, but do we need to decide that every subject that is taught in school has to go over to complete computerization? I think that as far as English is concerned, the computer is a great tool. If there's so much money 'up for grabs', why not invest it in Interactive White Boards? At the moment, our school has one which is used only for designated classes. I would love to learn more about them. If we use IWBs, this will allow us to have each student focused on the same thing rather than each student working from his own laptop. My guess is that it would be more communicative, and less expensive.

I thought very carefully before writing this mail since, as I've already said, I'm not a computer expert, and it is possible that I have totally misinterpreted some points. If so, I'm sure someone will put me right. However, if there is something in what I say, it seems to me to be a (very expensive) recipe for disaster...

Andrew Wilson

Link for the article:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

English Tutoring in Israel Today - Competing in a Tough Job Market

by Allan Hirshey

Over the past several decades, the supply of English teaching professionals in Israel has not only caught up with, but has exceeded the demand.  This has resulted in a flood of mostly unemployed English teachers, trying to find jobs in an already over-crowded English tutoring market.  The latter is now strictly a buyer’s market, with no end in sight!
The underlying causation factors can be summarized as follows: the large number of local teacher training colleges/universities with English departments, pumping  out hundreds of English major & teacher graduates annually; the same institutions offering  one-year English tutor certification programs, designed for older professionals seeking career changes; the steady influx of “Anglos” toting B.A. and M.A. degrees in English education, exacerbated by the sharp downturn in the global economy;  and even the number of presently employed English school teachers seeking additional income, via the tutoring route.        

Consequently, if you want to stay “a cut above the competition”, here are some   points to remember:

1.     Hebrew Language Proficiency – the lower the age of your student target group, the higher the Ivrit level you’ll need.     

2.    Educational Qualifications - relying on only a B.A. in English education isn’t realistically competitive.  You’re either going to have to beef up your education level to an M.A. and/or obtain instructor certification in perhaps one or more of these specialties - ELS, TOFEL, or SEN . 

3.    Marketing Strategies - maintain updated CVs, personal references, & business cards. For starters, volunteer your services at local community centers and schools.   Post tutoring flyers on neighborhood bulletin boards, and keep checking the JANGLO, ETNI, & similar websites for job opportunities. 

4.   Knowledge of Local Pay Rates - don’t be caught off guard.  Know in advance what the remuneration standards are in your catchment areas for groups & individuals.  In this regard, be flexible & sharpen your negotiating skills.  You’re going to need them!

5.   Technical Expertise/Skills - bonding effectively with younger clients is critical.  This is especially true if their parents are “arm twisting them” into being tutored.  Strengthen your bonding expertise by studying & practicing psychological techniques.  NLP is a good example.         

6.   Psychometric Readiness  - develop & maintain your own system of written tests.  It’s not uncommon to get insufficient client feedback from apathetic classroom teachers.     

7.   Reference Materials -   invest in and build up your own personal library.  There’s tons of free material on the “net” you can download & file away.  

8.   Office Technology - in addition to a PC, owning your own copying & fax machines save time, money, & also increases work efficiency.   

9.   Work Environment – minimize noise & window space.  Loud colored walls & pictures can also cause distractions.  Position wall clocks behind the student.      

10. Creative Entrepreneurship – think of starting your own English tutoring business, wider in scope, with one or more partners’ (each having own specialty & separate network of contacts).  Of course, check out the potential revenues & expenses – this might be a way to go!     

With that said, focus your attention on yourself rather than on the competition.  Don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up.  Always maintain a positive attitude.  If tutoring English is really your passion- GO FOR IT!

Information about Allan Hirshey, the author

I ‘m a native Baltimorean & retired “Fed”, with a 30+ year career span, now living with my wife & four children in Jerusalem.  Having B.A., L.L.B., & M.S. degrees enabled me to “wear many hats”, during my working career.  Some of these positions included lecturing in accounting at a local community college, developing legal cases for Medicare/Medicaid fraud prosecution, and directing the U.S. Public Health Service’s Hill Burton hospital loan portfolio (San Francisco RO).  I also managed the reimbursement operation for the Community Mental Health Centers Program, a national outpatient mental health program, administered by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Baltimore, Central Office).  

After making aliyah, I decided to begin a new career.   Accordingly, I obtained professional counseling and English tutoring certificates from Refuah Institute and the Natanya English Center (under AACI auspices), respectively.  Presently, I provide voluntary counseling, including Reality Therapy, to yeshiva students. Additionally, I do English & basic math tutoring.  I also learn in a yeshiva half a day.  Express Tutoring is the name of my formal tutoring service, & business English is my specialty.  A few years ago, I developed a “Business English 101” course for an Israeli teacher’s college.

During my spare time & in order to maintain my sanity (whatever’s left) , I play tennis, write articles, listen to a variety of musical selections, do genealogical research, occasionally attend NLP workshops, and enjoy babysitting with my grandchildren.