Tuesday, 21st February (Richmond)

1. It’s International Mother Language Day today. UNESCO’s statement on ‘mother language based education’ begins as follows: “While mother-tongue-based education is essential to the full development of individuals and to the transmission of linguistic heritage, 40% of the world’s students do not have access to education in  the language they speak or understand  best.”

Here’s the full (short) text https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000384469_eng

here’s more background https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/international-mother-language-day-unesco-calls-countries-implement-mother-language-based-education

and here’s a detailed report, Born to Learn, on exactly why it’s never a good idea to inflict English medium education on young people who haven’t yet mastered their first/mother language https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000383289 PDF below as well – quite a big file.

2. Short notice of two events: firstly, the next event in Trinity’s ‘Transformative Teachers’ webinar series at 16:00 UK time tomorrow, 22nd February, Using songs to build awareness of global citizenship issues with Chris Walklett More info and registration here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/using-songs-to-build-awareness-of-global-citizenship-issues-tickets-526340357177

Details of other events – past and future – in the series here https://resources.trinitycollege.com/ttw

and while you’re in the Trinity website, consider submitting a proposal for this year’s 8th Future of English conference this coming June – the deadline’s 31st March https://resources.trinitycollege.com/foelt/events/2023

You’ll find recordings of all the very wide range of talks at last year’s 7th Future of English conference on that same page.

3. Secondly, the second event in the 21st Century English Teacher Express series with Peartree Languages and English Academy is this Thursday, 23rd February at 07:00 UK time. It’s a double-header: Planning Lessons & Courses and Understanding Learners. It will be streamed live on the British Council Teaching English Asia Facebook page: more info here https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=575766161253568&set=pb.100064605672813.-2207520000.&type=3

4. Catch up with the winners of the Greenpeace Poems for the Planet competition here https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/resources/poems-planet-winners-resources/ and scroll down to download posters and teaching notes for Benjamin Zephaniah and Nicola Davis poems. PDFs below as well.

5. And, finally and controversially – and (nonetheless)(therefore) potentially the basis of an excellent lesson for advanced students, I reckon – the veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seymour_Hersh has just published an article in which he claims that it was the USA, not Russia, that blew up the Nord Stream pipeline https://seymourhersh.substack.com/p/how-america-took-out-the-nord-stream.

Hersh has an impressive track record – for example, he exposed the My Lai massacres in Vietnam and the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq – but not everyone agrees with him, including UnHerd, who’ve published two pieces rebutting his Nord Stream claim in detail (which you’ll be able to access if you’ve not already read eight articles this month, as I have):

i) https://unherd.com/thepost/who-really-blew-up-the-nord-stream-2-pipeline/

ii) https://unherd.com/thepost/osint-picks-holes-in-seymour-hershs-nord-stream-claims/

All I can say is that not everyone agreed with him on My Lai or Abu Ghraib either …

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Thursday, 16th February (Richmond, a bit later than usual)

1. Two online events next week. Here’s the first, from OUP (Oxford University Press) at 13:00 UK time on Thursday 23rd February: Harmonize: Breaking down barriers to project-based learning. Three (ever-so-slightly-unintentionally aggressive?) questions from the blurb: “Do you like the idea of project-based learning (PBL)? How often do you do it? And what stops you from including more of it in your classroom teaching?”

It’s primarily the launch of the new OUP series, Harmonize (sic), but I’d also expect it to be of value to people who’re not in a position to buy the book. More info and registration here https://events.oup.com/oxford-university-press/Harmonize-Breaking-down-barriers-to-project-based-learning

What would these distinguished gentlemen say about that ‘z’, I wonder? https://public.oed.com/history/chief-editors/

Perhaps it just reflects the relative size of the American English and British English markets?

2. The second is the following day, Friday, 24th February at 10:30 UK time, A tool does not replace the craft, from the Academic Writing Centre at UCL (University College London) https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/events/2023/feb/tool-does-not-replace-craft

“This talk will trace the impact of online translation on international education and modern language teaching, particularly the evolution of this technology. Today, the use of online translation is raising fundamental questions about the teaching and assessment of writing in higher education. This talk will further explore ideas of ownership, authorship and academic integrity. It will also look at parallels and contrasts between EAP and generative AI, most notably Chat GPT.”

3. The British Council are holding a major one-day event, The Future of English: the why and the how on Friday, 3rd March, starting at 09:00 UK time, “bring(ing) together researchers from four international UK-led projects which were awarded Future of English Research Grants to exchange ideas, share findings and, for the first time, showcase the projects to a wider audience. In this event, the focus will be on exploring why and how the future of the world’s most spoken language should be investigated”.

Both online and in-person attendance is possible. More details, including full programme, and registration here https://www.britishcouncil.org/english-assessment/research/future-english-research-forum

I wouldn’t expect this event to be overly linguisticky – and the ‘visual minutes’ are almost being taken by Frank O’Hara, the ‘New York School’ poet …

4. A story about British principles and pragmatism from the 1930s that I’m not sure would have the same outcome today, Deporting Ho Chi Minh https://www.historytoday.com/miscellanies/deporting-ho-chi-minh. Compare and contrast Julian Assange’s case? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Assange.

5. And, finally, some (weekend?) listening about “the challenges of translating foreign language books into the English language” from Elena Ferrante’s translator in the BBC’s In the Studio series: Ann Goldstein: The art of the translator https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3cszvc4

Lots of other good stuff from the series here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04vfd0x

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Tuesday, 14th February (Cambridge)

1. Tolu Noah recommends a five-step process for composing micro-lectures to her colleagues at California State University, Long Beach (which sounds like it might be a pleasant place to work!): Plan, Create, Record, Caption, and Share.

Here’s her article on that process from Faculty Focus (with some good further reading at the end) https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/online-course-delivery-and-instruction/microlectures-101-what-why-how/

and here’s a page from her website with a number of useful downloadable resources for iPad (and other tablet?) users, all of which have a QR code link to additional material https://www.tolunoah.com/resources-3

2. Should we be disappointed that Scott Thornbury can only find nine answers to his own question, What’s wrong with the grammar syllabus? Maybe not! https://youtu.be/V6H6QkjXmiE

3. Blimey! Can this really be true? “A third of 15-year-olds have been persistently absent from classrooms in England during the current school year”? https://www.theguardian.com/education/2023/feb/10/third-of-15-year-olds-persistently-absent-school-england

4. Today’s Word of the Day from the Oxford English Dictionary is angrezi https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/248713

Not sure how long it’s available – maybe just today, so be quick if you want to confirm what you think it means!

5. Here’s Susie Dent’s lexicological take on Valentine’s Day, The old terms of endearment you could revive for Valentine’s Day, from ‘saucy prawn’ to ‘cabbage’ https://inews.co.uk/opinion/susie-dent-valentines-day-old-terms-endearment-2145268

Which reminds me, brain-process-curiously, of the time in the third form that we convinced our French exchange students that ‘greasy motorbike’ was the worst insult in the English language.

6. Et, finalement, un jeu d’esprit de Melanie Butler https://www.elgazette.com/ap-takes-french-leave-of-its-senses/

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Thursday, 9th February (Cambridge)

1. This LanguageCert webinar is quite an early start for UK attendees (only fair for a change!), 07:30 UK time on Wednesday, 15th February: Cultivating a Culture of Care in Language Education with Jane Arnold and Kieran Donaghy. More info and registration here https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PTC6fksQQNer6sTDQZe6zw

2. Ample notice of the 2nd Decentring ELT conference: Exploring New Opportunities which will take place on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th March from 13:00 to 16:00 UK time each day. More info here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/2nd-decentring-elt-conference-exploring-new-opportunities-tickets-523865875937 Home-made PDF below. Scroll down this page for the (sensibly short) proceedings of the first Decentring conference in December 2021 https://www.hornby-trust.org.uk/decentring-elt and you’ll find recordings of all the sessions at that conference here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhQnWbX4q7NnGqUIpV7FH8NlmD00-wadj

3. Here’s a piece about light and darkness for The Guardian by the Ukrainian novelist, Andrey Kurkov https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/04/ukrainians-2023-putin-russia “The war is a battle with Putin’s Russia, and a life plagued by darkness”, he says. If you get chance to read Kurkov’s first novel, Death and the Penguin, do take it! https://en.wikipedia.:org/wiki/Death_and_the_Penguin

4. This piece from The Conversation has occasioned a certain  amount of discussion in our family: https://theconversation.com/men-often-dont-see-mess-like-women-do-changing-that-could-make-housework-more-equal-197373

5. And, finally, I found this lurking on my Google search page on 6th February, Bob Marley Day in Marley’s home country, Jamaica https://artsandculture.google.com/project/bob-marley

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Tuesday, 7th February (Richmond, just)

1. Here’s exactly one week’s notice of the start on 14th February of a new course on English in the multilingual classroom https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/training/english-multilingual-classroom

“This course will introduce you to multilingualism and what it means. You’ll learn how to make your classroom and teaching multilingual so that your learners can learn to celebrate and use many languages in the real world.” Sounds good to me!

2. In a similar vein, Nayr Ibrahim was self-confessedly thrilled late last week to share the news of the foundation of ELLRA, the Early Language Learning Research Association, which “will seek to federate and further research into Early Language Learning (ELL): the acquisition of two or more languages by young learners (2-12 years), and the teaching of additional languages to these younger age groups.”

If you’re interested in finding out more, join the ELLRA Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/524159253154802

By the way, I think the Macmillan Dictionary definition of ‘in a similar vein’ is excellent https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/in-a-similar-vein. I only wish that Leeds had been more exemplary of the phrase this season!

3. Here’s the first of two gift articles today from The New York Times, a piece by their Editorial Board about the pros and cons of making many professions ‘graduate only’ with which it’s very hard to disagree, See Workers as Workers, Not as a College Credential https://tinyurl.com/yckkhcmb

That one was courtesy of Stephen Downes’s OL(Online)Daily, which often has good stuff, including this recent post with stacks of ChatGPT links https://www.downes.ca/post/74832 – you can subscribe here https://www.downes.ca/index.html

4. Continuing with the theme of ChatGPT, Did a Fourth Grader Write This? Or the New Chatbot? is today’s second NYT article, where you get to judge for yourself whether it was the bot or the student who was the author of three pieces of writing https://tinyurl.com/bdcsd3pp

5. And, finally and elegiacally, ‘Once Elephants Lived Here’ by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell, the story of “a young office worker in a teeming metropolis (becoming) intrigued with a chimerical elderly woman”:

Part 1 https://wordswithoutborders.org/read/article/2023-01/once-elephants-lived-here-part-one-geetanjali-shree-daisy-rockwell/

and Part 2 https://wordswithoutborders.org/read/article/2023-02/once-elephants-lived-here-part-two/

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Thursday, 2nd February (Cambridge)

1. Three pieces from The Conversation that have caught my eye recently:

Seychelles is becoming overwhelmed by marine plastic – we now know where it comes from https://theconversation.com/seychelles-is-becoming-overwhelmed-by-marine-plastic-we-now-know-where-it-comes-from-198350

This one includes a frightening video showing marine debris flows in the Indian Ocean https://youtu.be/ma0wlFfA6dI

Sugary drinks tax may be reducing obesity in girls but not boys – an expert explains what we know https://theconversation.com/sugary-drinks-tax-may-be-reducing-obesity-in-girls-but-not-boys-an-expert-explains-what-we-know-198743

We drank gallons of ‘fizzy pop’ as children, my own two favourites being dandelion and burdock and limeade – I wonder if the former had ever seen a dandelion or a burdock, or the latter a lime? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dandelion_and_burdock

Myanmar: two years after the military seized power the country is mired in a bloody civil war – but there are grounds for optimism https://theconversation.com/myanmar-two-years-after-the-military-seized-power-the-country-is-mired-in-a-bloody-civil-war-but-there-are-grounds-for-optimism-198254

I’m ashamed to say I’d forgotten about the conflict in Myanmar until I bought a suit recently, which I found to my surprise had been made in Myanmar – sanctions notwithstanding, it would seem.

2. More from UnHerd, who I mentioned on Tuesday: this is the sad tale of the decline of Boston in Lincolnshire here in the UK https://unherd.com/2023/01/how-brexitland-lost-control/ And if you’ve time, skim the almost unanimously critical (of the piece) comments.

3. Something I’m never quite sure I really understand is what exactly it is that The Economist’s Big Mac Index tells us about economies around the world. “The British pound is 12.9% undervalued against the US dollar” – what should I do with this information, I wonder? Here’s this year’s https://www.economist.com/big-mac-index

4. A New York Times ‘gift article’, a great photo-gallery, Gandhi’s Life in Photos, 75 Years After His Assassination https://tinyurl.com/4rentbab

5. And, finally and profoundly, How Deep The Ocean Really Is from InsiderTech https://youtu.be/UwVNkfCov1k

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Tuesday, 31st January 2023 (Richmond)

1. UnHerd (good double pun) put 10 statements in front of 10,000 UK voters, covering Brexit, gender ideology, political disillusionment, conspiracy, Net Zero, immigration, the monarchy, the cost-of-living crisis, housing and lockdowns. In each case, respondents chose whether they agreed or disagreed, and how strongly. UnHerd was also able to compare their 2022 results with their 2019 survey, and – unsurprisingly, maybe – they’ve chosen to start with their Brexit question, where the 2019-2022 contrast is especially stark https://unherd.com/2023/01/introducing-unherd-britain-2023/

With the exception of a curious little cluster of four contiguous constituencies around The Wash https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wash, everyone now thinks Brexit was a mistake.

That said, there are big differences: the journey I’ve made up the A1 today from Cambridge, where the split is 69/17 in favour of ‘Mistake!’ https://britain.unherd.com/constituencies/cambridge/ to Richmond, where the margin is much narrower, at 47/37 https://britain.unherd.com/constituencies/richmond-yorks/ illustrates that.

2. The first NATESOL event of 2023 is Writing for EAL Learners with Jonathan Bifield this Saturday, 4th February, at 10:00 UK time. More info and registration here and in the PDF below https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc1Slw4966h8n1nged0MSgWBSXNs63Wd57A8fUxfR3aPPEs-A/viewform

From Jonathan’s blurb: “One thing is clear from the research evidence, that the best place for the explicit teaching of writing to take place is in the classroom or subject the writing is being done in.” His focus is on EAL learners, but I think what he has to say will have wider applicability.

3. Thanks to Nik Peachey for sharing this one: Matt Miller’s evangelical Ditch that Textbook website https://ditchthattextbook.com/

Here’s a real smorgasbord of ideas from Matt and his colleagues to do with how we use ChatGPT in the classroom https://ditchthattextbook.com/ai/#t-1671292150919

and here’s a short video on bringing the world into your classroom, 4 ways to connect your class to the world https://youtu.be/TMvsexTFbHc

PDF below of Matt’s 101 Practical Ways to Ditch that Textbook – but you may well decide you’re neither ready nor able to ditch yours quite yet!

4. Some deserved, good (and fairly slick) PR here for one of my favourite restaurants, Dishoom, who’ve just reached a target of delivering 15 Million Meals for free in partnership with the Magic Breakfast charity in the UK and the Akshaya Patra Foundation in India https://youtu.be/8xT_VAj_fHE

Here’s the Magic Breakfast site https://www.magicbreakfast.com/

and here’s the Akshaya Patra Foundation one https://www.akshayapatra.org/

And here’s how to cook rotis! https://youtu.be/cDr1iJwD170

5. And, finally and puzzlingly but I hope not ghoulishly, two ‘real crime’ stories:

one from Norway https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-spectacular-case-of-lorenskog-norway-s-ongoing-search-for-a-murderer-a-b615c528-392e-4708-8796-5047d2620484

and one from Wales https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jan/28/the-killer-could-still-be-among-us-two-elderly-siblings-and-a-brutal-that-mystifies-locals-nearly-50-years-on

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Thursday, 26th January (Cambridge)

1. A piece from my previous employer, the British Council: Vicky Gough’s article for their online magazine, Voices: The British and their secret language regrets https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/british-and-their-secret-language-regrets

We are not a nation of happy monoglots, it seems.

2. A piece from my current employer, NILE (the Norwich Institute for Language Education): their newsletter this month leads on the NILE CEFR Filtering Tool with YL proficiency descriptors https://www.nile-elt.com/products/NewsletterJan23

If you haven’t got a clue what on earth a CEFR Filtering Tool with YL proficiency descriptors is about, you might want to give it a miss; if, on the other hand, a CEFR Filtering Tool with YL proficiency descriptors sounds like it might be useful in your work, watch Thom Kiddle’s introductory video here https://youtu.be/4Xhi70AEKYg

3. How do you identify and nurture people with potential? How do you turn a bunch of talented individuals into a cohesive team? Where does decision-making science end and judgement begin? are some of the questions that Ed Smith, until recently the Chief Selector for the England cricket team, will be answering in his talk, How to make better decisions, at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) on Thursday, 2nd February at 13:00 UK time.

Online and face-to-face: make sure you book the right kind of ticket https://www.thersa.org/events/2023/02/how-to-make-better-decisions

4. And, finally, a word cloud of the answers to the question, What policy do you most associate with Rishi Sunak? (the current UK prime minister) from Redfield and Wilton (R&W) which suggests he’s not yet achieved ‘cut-through’ with the public:

More R&W polling here https://redfieldandwiltonstrategies.com/magnified-email/issue-55/ and an explanation of ‘cut-through’ here https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/cut-through_2

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Tuesday, 24th January 2023 (Richmond)

1. I could imagine that many of us have mixed feelings – at least! – about the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. This year’s has just ended, and here’s McKinsey’s ‘five key takeaways’ from it https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/themes/5-takeaways-from-the-world-economic-forums-2023-meeting There’s a link to a piece on each of the key takeaways, with an audio version of each read (rather well) by ChatGPT’s younger sister.

Here’s the print piece on the space economy takeaway https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/aerospace-and-defense/our-insights/how-will-the-space-economy-change-the-world and here’s the audio version https://soundcloud.com/mckinsey/listen-to-the-article-how-will-the-space-economy-change-the-world

2. The latest free download in Heath Rose and Jim McKinley’s Cambridge Elements in Language Teaching series is Teaching Young Multilingual Learners by Luciana C. de Oliveira and Loren Jones https://www.cambridge.org/core/elements/teaching-young-multilingual-learners/FCF4AF1045B8A204184865731C42918B

Available to download till 3rd February; PDF below just in case you don’t get round to it in time.

Information on the rest of the series here: https://tinyurl.com/mry5v4ef

3. Your friends at school, languages and the pandemic legacy is the title of the latest weekly TeacherTapp blog post, which, as usual, addresses three questions.

This week’s three are:

a) who needs friends at school? (not head teachers, apparently);

b) which languages are being taught in the UK nowadays? (and possibly also learnt?);

c) what did we learn from the pandemic? (and which innovations did we retain post-pandemic?)


4. Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day is a nice idea, possibly explained at greater length than necessary here https://fs.blog/twenty-five-pages-a-day/

5. And, finally and I hope acceptably self-indulgently, Flanders and Swann were a favourite musical duo of my father’s, and we ended his celebration-cremation service yesterday with their Hippopotamus Song https://youtu.be/4zpDF3Py7r8

He would be very pleased, I’m sure, if you sang along with the chorus!

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Thursday, 19th January (Richmond)

1. Three more on ChatGPT – tell me when you’re getting bored, please!

Nick Cave’s view is that This Song Sucks https://www.theguardian.com/music/2023/jan/17/this-song-sucks-nick-cave-responds-to-chatgpt-song-written-in-style-of-nick-cave

From The New York Times, Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach https://tinyurl.com/4zh9wt92

From The Guardian, Lecturers urged to review assessments in UK amid concerns over new AI tool https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/jan/13/end-of-the-essay-uk-lecturers-assessments-chatgpt-concerns-ai

2. Maybe Pecha Kucha is part of the answer? https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/course-design-ideas/pecha-kucha-is-the-answer/ I’d no idea that pecha kucha was Japanese for chit-chat – which brings back an instant memory of a South African teacher of geography at school barking out at least twice a lesson, “Cut out the general chit-chat at the back there!”

3. Here’s a storytelling lesson plan from TeachingEnglish, Carnival crime, based on the theft and recovery of some diamonds at the carnival in Rio https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teaching-resources/teaching-primary/stories-and-poems/storytelling-carnival-crime ‘Suitable for primary learners from A1 and above’. Lesson plan, worksheet, script & cards and story text all below!

[file x 4]

4. And, finally, the seventh and last instalment of The New York Times Happiness Challenge: Keep Happiness Going All Year Long https://tinyurl.com/mr8f9v9n We can but try!

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