The Autonomous Language Learner at Work Feride Hekimgil, Turkey

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The Autonomous Language Learner at Work

Feride Hekimgil, Turkey

Feride Hekimgil was born into a multicultural, multilingual family in Basingstoke in 1955. She grew up and completed her primary and secondary education in İstanbul after which she attended Boğaziçi University, an English medium university in the same city. After graduating in 1976 having received a BA in English literature and her teaching certificate from the department of education, she started teaching English as a foreign language at the same university. She continues to teach at the same university. E-mail:


Students of the past: ameba with special needs

The new approach: labels are for boxes, bottles and tubes not people

“Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find” St Luke

The first suggestion: listening i.e. videos, into writing

The second suggestion: listening i.e. films, into writing

The third suggestion: reading and listening, into writing

The fourth suggestion: reading i.e. novels and short stories, into writing

And finally: new horizons in learning

In conclusion: spoon feeding is out and autonomy is in


Students of the past: ameba with special needs

We have all watched classroom scenes out of reproductions of great British classics and observed the strict authoritarian methods employed. Students, it was believed, were essentially flawed; errors of creation if you will, their minds full of “cotton, hay and rags” as Henry Higgins so aptly put it; their minds, it was thought, were an intellectual vacuum. It was the God given duty of teachers to remedy the situation by clearing out the rubbish and instilling, in its stead, “useful “knowledge, “correct” opinions and “appropriate” social skills thus transforming the little savages into human beings. Teaching, according to this view of the world, was akin to godliness; students were the grateful recipients of the modifications made to their mental abilities. Authoritarianism has retained its grip on teaching for centuries churning out apathetic victims who are bored witless and in fact know very little. In such a view of teaching, the horror and fear produced by the perceived “cotton, hay and rags” is so great that all intellectual curiosity – which is, after all, the first step to the actual grasping of the content of a lesson, and later creative thinking and innovation – was successfully stamped out with sheer perseverance; the aim being to create individuals happy to live on the specific hamster wheel considered appropriate. This view of teaching has lingered on due, I presume, to the popularity of authoritarianism in general yet there is change in the air; not due to the so called “ameba” but to the great strides that have been made in technology: the World Wide Web and all the modern appliances that enable maximum use of it. The said technology is being added to every day with apps becoming ever more readily available and easy to use. Coupled with the winds of change espousing more liberalism, views towards education have changed a lot – there is resistance however, as authoritarianism is by nature a breeding ground for egos as someone once said.

The new approach: labels are for boxes, bottles and tubes not people

The new liberal approach removes the master puppeteer and places the learner center stage. The acquiring and internalizing of knowledge is now viewed as an active process on the part of the student who is presented with some information and asked to discover the rest following a set of clues through an obstacle course and thus learning the route, all the possible pitfalls and ways of avoiding them. This view to learning and teaching means that students are expected to deduce the rules and conclusions rather than being fed them and thus remember them better – as they have been successfully internalized. This method of teaching requires patience on the part of the teacher who should also learn to observe and not take the lead marching ahead, sward drawn but walking along side students guiding them if you will. This view to teaching languages is yet to catch on completely though, and markets are still littered with very popular books that present rules in boxes and then demand that students do a set of well structured exercises. The educational value of this method of teaching is nothing compared to that of a book in which the exercises lead to the deduction of rules, which are thus more successfully learnt as effort has been made to do so and the student has remained actively involved. The same approach is true for the teaching of vocabulary, where teachers should desist from arming the students with vocabulary lists including synonyms and allow students to guess words whenever they can and only allow them to look up key words. Does it really matter if the student knows the difference between loath and detest so long as he has guessed they both mean roughly hate? Provided he understands the sentence as a whole, does he really need to look up every single obscure vocabulary item? If for example, “the plans have gone agley” and he has worked out that there is something wrong with the plans, does he need to rush for the dictionary? This shedding of the shackles allows students to soar, curious and interested. It is, or should be, a teacher’s greatest pleasure to watch them do so. Modern technology and the internet now allow students even more autonomy by replacing, in some instances, the guiding hand of the teacher. The advantages of these new developments are self evident: there are hundreds of language learners and far too few good teachers so if part of the load can be shared where is the harm in that? Another obvious reason why the role of this new route in language teaching is impossible to deny is that the current generation is very tech savvy indeed; they have grown up surrounded by technology thus feel happy and comfortable working with it. If this is the hand we, as language teachers, have been dealt, common sense dictates that we accompany the students down this route for this reason alone. The new route involves use of some wonderful sites available on the internet and the teacher stepping back after initial introductions to let students get on with the work. In short, we as teachers need to let go of the deductive approach to teaching, confine it to the archives and embrace this new approach the inductive approach and technology have made possible. Old habits die hard and this is true both for generations of students who have learnt to accept the deductive approach as the one and only way to learn, and for teachers who have been laying down the law and delivering exercises for years. Complacency and lack of objectivity about the true value of the way we have been doing things will lock the door leading to better and more effective ways of teaching so it is to these innovative, effective and highly enjoyable methods of learning that we shall now turn.

Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find” St Luke

The sheer number of students seeking to learn what is now the universal language of the world, English, is staggering. Nowhere is this so evident as in the developing world, East Asia and the Middle East where Turkey is but one example. The university where I teach, one of the top English medium universities in the country, takes on around two thousand new students every year two thirds of whom have to do a year of prep and pass a proficiency exam which is on a par with the IELTS and TOEFL. One year being all that we are allowed and having the same period of time to teach both advanced students and beginners, we know that we have a formidable task. The job can only be accomplished if we furnish the students with the necessary study skills to correctly supplement the class work. This is by no means all; as we cannot – nor should be – holding their hands twenty four seven, we also need a good and reliable stand in to help students, provide material, check their answers and provide explanation so enter the tutor par excellence: the internet. It is amazing how oblivious both certain teachers and students are of the depth and breadth of what is available on the internet. I had a student come into my office a week ago to enquire about the place of adverbs in sentences upon which I asked her if she had checked on the internet. Discovering that she hadn’t, we did so together to locate, to her delight, a wonderful website with some excellent examples. This incident and many others like it have led me to the conclusion that students, at least those in this part of the world, need to be introduced to ways they can exploit the internet. The same is true for some of my colleagues: my jaw dropped a few days ago when a senior member of staff said she wished there was a website for essay topics. I didn’t say anything at the time but I did prepare a set of websites detailing the services they provide and an idiot proof list of study suggestions using the internet, the latter of which you will find in appendix1. To cut a long story short, there is an enormous demand which has been met by the internet so it is to this new source of learning and how various sites can best be exploited individually and in tandem with others that we shall now turn as St. Luke’s words are so very true for both the student and the teacher’s new best friend.

The first suggestion: listening i.e. videos, into writing

It goes without saying that most students who desire to learn English as a foreign language do so in foreign countries under the guidance of non native speakers of English. Well trained and highly proficient though these individuals most certainly are, there is always the need to hear native speakers of the language as well. This need first gave rise to cassettes, then CDs but both have now been replaced by all the wonderful sites on the internet. I remember the aversion to the use of technology in class many years ago but eventually people got over their problems with cassettes and later with CDs. Now they will have to do the same with laptops and use of the internet as a learning tool both in class and out of class. I feel that the reason this adaptation process is harder in this part of the world than in others is the limited access to technology throughout the formative years. These are hurdles we need to come to grips with as the opportunities on the internet are stunning.

One of my preferred websites for listening purposes is , a wonderful website including academic talks by experts in their fields on practically any subject under the sun. What makes this site so much better than and others like it is the availability of subtitles in English and the text itself should you wish to refer to it; the former specially is essential for language teaching purposes. Obviously, the activity I am about to describe is suited to intermediate level and above. What I like to do is to ask the students to research a topic they are interested in such as women’s rights or cyber crime and pick out a few videos – the videos vary greatly in both length and level of lexical difficulty. I then tell them to listen first without subtitles and take some notes and then to listen a second time this time with subtitles and check and add to their notes. Then, I ask them to write up their notes in the form of an essay adding their own opinions as well. There are various advantages of this activity: first and foremost, the students adore it, which means they will focus in class, and there won’t be discipline problems, they will be happy to do it for homework and they will learn a lot faster than they otherwise would. The resulting essays will be a lot better too as what the students learn from the listening – all that new vocabulary, those new structures, collocations and so on – will flow into their essay instead of input in the form of a similar mental-essay written in their native language. This business of translating from the native language is the only option that is left if input in the target language is not provided, and it leads to the most horrific mistakes and very little improvement. The video into writing activity does, however, catch on very fast. To see samples of the said essays go to and click on sample essays and paragraphs; you will see the links to the videos at the end of each essay along with the level of the student who wrote it. The said essays are all second drafts which the students have produced after studying the first draft I corrected using correction symbols.

A variation of this activity would be the teacher seeking out the videos concerning a topical issue, or an issue students would feel interested in, watching the same and designing the writing activity to go along with it. The preparation is time consuming yet the rewards make it worthwhile. Below you will find a writing activity I prepared after watching a program called “Young and Jobless” on BBC television. Having come across the program purely by chance and realizing what I had stumbled upon, I took notes just as I demand the students do. I then designed the following activity which the students will only be able to complete in a satisfactory manner if they view the same program and take notes. The number of advantages involved in the activity makes one’s mouth water: there is all that listening into writing and all the benefits of that as well as an introduction to a good television channel and an activity they can do on their own as well.


Gone are the days when all recruitment was done with pen and paper and face to face. Although interviews still exist for some candidates at the end of a long a grueling process, most of the selection and elimination process now takes place online. Before looking at the points and starting your research, access on the BBC website; watch the program, read and take notes. Advocates of this new trend claim it has the following advantages:

  1. Online recruiting helps in reducing the volume in the beginning.

  2. The system is fairer as individuals use their judgment and could be subjective.

  3. Recruiting agencies keep the data enabling people to be offered a different job that they didn’t apply for later on.

However the system does have its disadvantages too:

  1. The quality of applications is going down. People send in hundreds of applications and cut corners while doing so.

  2. People sometimes copy paste parts of good applications so finding really good ones is hard

  3. Hundreds of people applying for the same job; hard to get noticed.

In the conclusion, you might like to suggest some solutions:

  1. Think about what you want and target companies that provide the kind of job you want.

  2. Don’t send exactly the same CV, cover letter and answers to every company; tailor your answers.

  3. Check the job offer and use the key words in the job advertisement. Computers are programmed to eliminate by key word

  4. Take rejection on the chin and be persistent.

  5. Don’t aim for the top job at the start; take any reasonable job.

Television and need not be your only source of listening activities though; we must not forget YouTube. This site is a mine of information and is guaranteed to come up with a video to match any topic you throw at it. One such topic is a very contentious one in this part of the world: gold mining with cyanide; a process that does untold damage to the environment, devastating and laying waste whole swathes of land. Mining of gold takes place in the Aegean region of Turkey and frequently brings locals out onto the streets in protest. A topic of this kind was, I thought, something the students could relate to so I discovered the videos and prepared the following writing activity:


Before attempting this essay it is recommended that the students be asked to do some research concerning the negative effects of gold mining operations. The said research could constitute an assignment or could be done under your watchful eye at a computer lab. This having been done, it is further recommended that you access the following on YouTube and watch it as a class: Poison in the Lifeline (27 min.), the 1995 Omai Gold Mine Disaster. Poison in the Lifeline lays bare the events and grave consequences of the Omai Gold Mine disaster in Guyana in 1995 tracing the chain of events that led up to the disaster, the situation of extractive industries and the suffering of the 40.000 people who inhabit the area. Finally, ask the students to write a four paragraph essay on the effects of gold mining operations. Ask them to use the notes below


End this paragraph with the following thesis statement: Gold mining operations have serious environmental and social effects.

First developmental paragraph

Topic sentence: Gold mining operations do irreparable damage to the environment.

Highly consumptive, environmentally damaging, destroys natural environment, toxic waste, acid mine drainage (rock ground up and exposed to cyanide to extract gold; result: sulphuric acid), heavy metal poisoning (lead, cadmium, 96% of arsenic emissions), water depletion, uses vast amounts of energy

Second developmental paragraph

Gold mining operations have disastrous effects on local populations and the labor force employed on site.

Indigenous / community rights disregarded (mining on native land; natives, hunter-gatherers, subsistence farmers so way of life threatened; no power so rights ignored), laborers endangered (environmental violations put workers and locals at risk)


Write a restatement.

Needless to say, the activity went swimmingly: we went up to the computer lab, did some research and took notes, we then came back to class and watched the video together and discussed it, lastly the students wrote the essay using the notes they had made on all they had watched and learnt. As a result, not only did they produce some very good essays but they also gained a perspective on a serious environmental issue. Most importantly, they really enjoyed the lesson, which meant everyone was a hundred percent focused throughout and expressed a desire to do more of the same, which we did. The fact that they had such fun also meant that they were happy to do similar activities completely on their own as homework or projects and developed an interest in current affairs, which they proceeded to follow . Should the students be tackling a listening into writing activity without the teacher’s guidance, they will need some other method of essay correction and to accomplish this task, they will need to turn to the internet and access a wonderful site called . In order to benefit fully from the services offered, they will need to subscribe but in my view it is worth it. They then need to copy paste their essay into the space provided and click “academic essay”. The next thing they need to do is click on “correct the essay” and watch the red pen skimming – literally – through the essay. Once done, the site provides a very concise list of all the errors in the essay, both lexical and stylistic in addition to plagiarism – a reason why so many academics use the site. The student should then be advised to look back at his essay to try and find the aforementioned errors before referring back to the site for explanations. In cases where access to a professional does not exist and even when it does, this site is invaluable. I recommend that my students use it before handing in essays mainly to teach them to work on their own and focus on chronic mistakes.

The second suggestion: listening i.e. films, into writing

Videos aren’t the only source of listening practice; there are also films. In this modern world where the film industry has developed to such an extent and where most films are literally at our finger tips thanks to technology and the internet, it would be very short sighted indeed not to exploit them. There are numerous websites that provide access to films; two popular ones being and ; however, neither of these sights provide English subtitles; a ‘must have’ in my view. There is a way round this of course: installing the subtitles with a nifty little program yet how much simpler would it be to have the subtitles there, ready to go? This is why I like so much. This wonderful site has the films categorized neatly according to genre, all with subtitles. One piece of advice here, if, like me, you need to familiarize yourself with various films before assigning them to students, I suggest you do what I do and access the following film blog: The advantage of this blog is that there is interpretation and evaluation without spoilers, which means you can form a very good idea of a film, assign it to a student and watch it in your own time. Going back to , what can be done is select a genre, war films for instance, and assign a pair of films as a project to the students. There are so many choices that you could have different students dealing with different pairs of films the names of which you will naturally have made a note of. The students will then be required to watch the films with the subtitles switched on and make notes – which you should also demand to see. They can then be asked to compare the two films and their approach to war adding their own opinions as well. Let us imagine you have selected “Body of Lies”, “Zero Dark 30” and “The Hurt Locker”; wonderful, thought provoking films about the same issue and the same war and the latter two by the same director. The students could compare the films in terms their handling of the Iraq war, how they approach the topic, what their main focus is and how successful they are. Alternatively, they could take one epic war film “Inglorious Bastards” for example, which can’t really be studied in conjunction with anything, and write a project on that alone. Such a project would have numerous educational advantages in the short term and the long term: the amount of actual language practice would be phenomenal considering the amount of pleasure the students would derive from the activity, the habit of watching films in the target language would also be formed guaranteeing more of the same benefits in the future. This activity can be done as an in class activity as well; the only down side to this would be the fact that it is tremendously time consuming. This being the case, it is down to the autonomous language learner to tackle it in his own time. Again, once the essay is complete, the student should be asked to access to deal with any problems in the same way as described above.

The third suggestion: reading and listening, into writing

Reading and writing are a marriage made in heaven and the latter should not exist without the former for as I have said before the student requires input in the target language in the form of both language and ideas to be able to write an essay on a topic. The failure to provide such background information would lead to translation and some horrendous problems which need not have existed in the first place. Couple the reading with listening and follow with an essay and you have got the perfect learning opportunity. The first way in which these three activities could be combined would be to hit on a current topic, say gun control, and research it. Videos being the best place to start, it is suggested that students be asked to google gun control and click videos upon which they will discover videos featuring both Piers Morgan and Barack Obama on gun control. Having listened to the said videos and made notes, they could be directed to turn their attention to newspapers and similar publications where they could be asked to tag articles concerning gun control. Having read and made notes on these as well, they could proceed to write their essays which they should hand in to you with their notes. If they are, per chance, working on their own, the next step would be to access and work on any mistakes as described earlier. An alternative would be for the teacher to do the research and plan the whole task as an in class activity. Below you will find an example writing handout detailing how the activity would look:


The recent school shooting in Newtown and the horrific death of 27 children sent shock waves through US society and prompted the administration to act. President Obama set out a list of proposals after consulting with vice president Joe Biden who had been working with both sides. A similar shooting in Scotland some years ago prompted the UK government to introduce some of the toughest gun laws in Europe; the same is true for Norway. Both countries have since witnessed a sharp decrease in gun crime. Before studying the proposals, google the following:

  • Piers Morgan on gun laws; access the videos, listen and make notes

  • Barack Obama on gun laws; access the videos, listen and take notes

  • Go to and read the following: US gun debate: Guns in numbers

  • Go to and ; read about the new proposals concerning gun laws and reactions to them.

When your research is complete, consider the points below and any others you can think of to write a problem solution essay.

Obama’s key proposals are as follows:

  • Reintroduce an expired ban on “military-style” assault weapons

  • Limit ammunition magazines to ten rounds

  • Background checks on all gun sales

  • Ban on possession and sale of armour -piercing bullets

  • Harsher penalties for gun traffickers, especially unlicensed dealers who buy guns for criminals

  • Approve the appointment of the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives

  • More focus on mental health issues

  • Changing mind sets

This is far from being the only way reading, listening and writing can be combined; there are also existing reading tasks available in text books, online or in the form of handouts prepared by individuals or establishments which should be prefaced or followed by a listening activity and rounded off with a related essay. To demonstrate how this works, I would like to turn to my own blog,, where the reading activities are grouped in five files according to level of difficulty – Level* being early intermediate. In the folder marked Level ***, there is a wonderful reading activity all about how to achieve happiness called “Finding Flow”. After discussing the ways in which one could achieve happiness, should be accessed. Were you to search for Flow or Finding Flow on this site, you would find a talk delivered by the writer of the article on the same topic. Having listened and taken notes, the students could turn their attention to the reading task which they should complete – the key and explanations are available on the site. They should then be required to write an essay on how to achieve happiness based on all the information they have gleaned and check their completed work on . Naturally, it is also perfectly possible to consider the whole task as an in class activity as well in which case it must be taken into account that plenty of time will be required. The advantage of working in this way is that boredom, discipline problems, tardiness and laziness in general will become things of the past with everyone on board and concentrating.

One is not always lucky enough to find the actual author of an article delivering a talk but a multitude of videos on any topic are at everyone’s fingertips. If, for instance, you were covering the reading task “War Against Girls” in Level*, you could seek out videos on women’s rights – there are plenty on - , listen to a few and then write an essay. If you were dealing with “Will We Ever Pass the Turing Test for Computers?”, you could set the ball rolling with a short video detailing the nature of the Turing test – it is the first link when you google Turing test – deal with the reading and having checked the answers, you could go to , to which links are provided on the blog to listen to some discussion and take notes. Everything could then be rounded off with an essay, examples of which are available on the blog in the file marked “Sample Student Essays and Paragraphs”. Naturally, as with the previous activities discussed so far, the students could perfectly well do all this on their own provided they check their essays on

The fourth suggestion: reading i.e. novels and short stories, into writing

I remember my first trip to Eastern Anatolia by sleeper in 1979 and being accosted at the station of a little place called Palu by a group of children all pleading with us to give them our old newspapers. I was bemused but our guide explained that they had no access to books and what they yearned for was reading matter. I remember how guilty I felt when I cast my mind back to one of my fondest childhood memories: my father taking me to a wonderful large bookstore, Redhouse, and turning me lose to pick out as many puffins, young puffins and, later, peacocks as I wished. We would exit the store laden with a couple of dozen books which I would devour. I have heard recently that various charities are producing simple tablets for children and distributing them in African countries to provide them with access to the internet and improve the quality of their learning. This is an excellent move as the activity I am about to describe requires access to a couple of wonderful websites which present one with a vast array of short stories and novels all absolutely scot free. As foreign books are still enormously expensive for students in this part of the world, this service is invaluable. The first of these sites is and it contains original short stories by well known writers. With an intermediate class, I like to start with Roal Dahl, a universal favorite. There happen to be three of his short stories on the site all of which could be read to write a report; an alternative would be to read individual stories and write about them. A similar website containing short stories is where you gain access to some of the best examples of American short stories. A story on this site which I have assigned in the past with roaring success is “The Lottery”; a highly disturbing story about which much has been written and which lends itself to some great discussion. If you have not read the story, I recommend that you do so. Short stories aren’t the only option though; there are novels as well and a site I suggest for this purpose is . The archive is truly wonderful with a wide choice of both short stories and novels. The students could be required to read either one or a few works and write a report. The activity could be further spiced up with the audio versions of these popular stories and novels available on numerous websites such as . One word of warning though, I would suggest that you ask the students for their notes as well. In our university, the bulk of a student’s grade is based on exam scores so any work they do for me, they do because they like it or find it worthwhile. The proof of how popular these activities are lies in the fact that most students willingly do the work, which in turn means that stringent controls are never necessary. This level of cooperation can only be achieved if the students deem the activities truly beneficial and entertaining; so much so that they are unaware of how time flies and are mildly disappointed when the class ends.

And finally: new horizons in learning

Wonderful, educationally worthwhile websites are by no means the only advantage provided by the World Wide Web; courses and even whole educational establishments have gone either partly or completely viral signaling the trend of the future: virtual learning environments. The best known of these sights is , a wonderful website established by a Stanford academic working with Google. The organization has made agreements with a slew of renowned universities the teaching staff of which offers courses in their fields online, free of charge to a global student body. There are fixed starting dates, projects, tests and even the possibility for direct communication with the lecturers via Google hangout. This novel and highly democratic system is growing in popularity every day. Online graduate work has been around for a while now and businesses now accept certificates from these courses too – albeit in pdf form – with Google taking the lead and skimming off the best of the crop. Another similar organization is Udacity, which is a completely online university with no physical campus and has taken the world by storm. EDX is taking its first baby steps and I am confident there will soon be more such educational establishments and for the moment at least, they are completely free. This being the new trend in learning, I feel it is only a matter of time before online language schools are also established. Technically, I can envision how this would be possible; I feel it is only too easy and only needs a group of enterprising teachers and IT specialists to take the lead. This being the way the wind is blowing, it falls to us teachers to keep up for ours is a profession where keeping abreast of changes is paramount.

As for how this trend currently applies to language learning, the opportunities are obvious especially in the case of university preparatory departments aiming to prepare students for their freshman year in an English medium university. One problem our advanced students complain about is being cut off from their departments proper for a year; a problem that could easily be rectified by introducing them to , where they could take a course in their chosen department, prepare for the year to come and practice their English in the process. This is something they could continue to do throughout their university careers improving their CVs to be able to compete in an ever more selective job market. The advantage of continuing to take these courses is the obvious edge it will provide in terms of English proficiency; an important advantage in second and third world countries.

In conclusion: spoon feeding is out and autonomy is in

Such methods of study as described above are hard to accept if the students and the teachers are all products of a more authoritarian educational system but the students’ future proficiency and welfare demands that we as teachers move with the times. Making sure our students are presented with the best possible opportunities to improve themselves and not get left behind is after all our cherished goal. The only issue we need to be disabused of is that there is only one good way to accomplish a task and that is what we personally have been doing all our lives A closed mind of this kind, even with the best of intentions, does untold damage not only to students but to teachers themselves as well as student displeasure and dissatisfaction will impact the pleasure the teacher will derive from his profession leaving him bitter and yearning for those mythical good old days. After all, as Heraclitus said “There is nothing permanent except for change” and yes, this is true for language teaching as well.

Appendix 1



Select a topic that you are interested in like slavery in the modern world, women’s rights or war for example.

  1. Access and print your topic into the search section.

  2. When you have discovered the videos related to your chosen topic, grab a pen and paper

  3. Listen to each video at least twice. If you are intermediate and above in terms of level, listen first without the script and make notes; then listen again this time with the script and check your notes. If you are a pre intermediate student reverse the process. If you feel you need to listen three times, that is fine too.

  4. Gather your notes together and write them up in the form of an essay.

  5. Access and copy paste your essay on to the site. Then select academic essay and hit “check your essay”.

  6. When you have a list of your mistakes, go back to your essay and try and locate them yourself.

  7. Finally, take your essay to any of the writing centers or your teachers for a final correction.

Note to the teacher: this procedure could be used as a project as well in which case the students should be requested to hand in their notes and the links to the videos they watched as well.


  1. Access and select a category that interests you like war films for example

  2. Select a couple of films in your chosen category and watch them with English subtitles.

  3. Then write an essay comparing and contrasting the films and their handling of war for example.

  4. Last of all, access and follow the procedure outlined in steps 6, 7 8 in the first suggestion.

Note to the teacher: this procedure could used to write essays in class or as a project. In the case of the latter, students should be required to state their choice of category and specific films beforehand to prevent large groups watching the same films.


  1. Access and select an appropriate level of reading activity. If you are an intermediate or pre intermediate student, this would be “Level of difficulty*”; if you are an advanced student, it would be “Level of difficulty**” to start with. Level one is lower intermediate in terms of level so should be manageable for pre intermediate students as well. If you are a remedial student and failed reading, you follow the same procedure advanced students do. If you passed reading start with “Level of difficulty ***”.

  2. Select a reading task that looks interesting

  3. Locate the text by googling the title and the author’s name and get a printout.

  4. Read the text carefully once, looking up key words on, which you need to download onto your laptops and telephones, and guessing the meanings of other words.

  5. Now try and answer the questions. While doing so, write out the answers; do not just underline.

  6. When you have completed the questions, check your answers. If there is anything you don’t understand, bring it to the writing centers or ask your teacher.

  7. Now access and search for related videos using key words in the text. For instance, if you have just completed work on “War Against Girls”, search for videos related to women’s rights; if you have just completed work on “How to Die”, search for humane end of life practices.

  8. Watch and take notes on the videos as outlined in the first suggestion.

  9. Now return to the blog and do the writing task.

  10. When you have completed your essay or paragraph, follow the procedure outlined in steps 6, 7 and 8 in the first suggestion.

Warning: it is important that all this be done at one sitting to enable flow of information from the reading to the listening and from both to the writing task. A delay would mean that a valuable learning opportunity has been wasted.


  1. Access the following website:, or and select a writer. Roald Dahl or Edgar Allen Poe for example.

  2. You may select a novel, a single story, a couple of stories by the same writer or a couple of stories discussing the same theme by different writers.

  3. After reading the story or stories you have selected, write a reaction essay, a comparison or an opinion essay concerning the ideas in the story.

  4. Lastly, follow the procedure outlined in steps 6, 7 and 8 in the first suggestion.


  1. Access and select a field of study that interests you.

  2. Select a course and apply for it. The courses are completely free

  3. You will get all your material, tests and projects online and be expected to hold up your side of the bargain.

  4. The advantage is that you will not only practice your English but also broaden your horizons and learn subject specific vocabulary.

Note to the student: use the suggestions listed here as guidelines to discover additional ways to improve your language skills.

Please check the Methodology and Language for Secondary Teachers course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the CLIL for Universities course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the How the Motivate your Students course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Building Positive Group Dynamics course at Pilgrims website.

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