Long in Montevideo

30 11 2011

Long in Montevideo by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

Another late entry and unfortunately it’s going to stop here as far as running roads is concerned for a couple of weeks.  It was a hot, hot afternoon as I plodded up and down the lovely promenade of Montevideo after my morning exertions for Macmillan (Feedback Fiesta and Correction Celebration at IH Montevideo). 

Little did I know that there was a 10km race planned for 5pm so I was surprised to see few if anyone out sharing my run with me and then the police closed the coast road for me to run on.  Having laughed at all the people running last Sunday in Puerto Madero after the Nike 10km (why didn’t they join the rest of us in the race?) I found myself unwittingly in the same boat.  I wanted to be wearing a t-shirt that said ‘I’m flying out of here in an hour otherwise I’d be running with the rest of you’.  

And unfortunately I felt a twinge in my right calf in the last of the 8km which I forgot about as soon as I stopped running but remembered as soon as I tried to go out again the following Tuesday – after a single KM I had to stop for the tightness.  Hopefully I stopped quickly enough and I won’t be resting for long, but I won’t try again until I get back from Sao Paulo to ensure I have a good rest of it before I go again.  Got to keep fit for the summer and make the most of the time I’m going to have to run as well as trying to keep the Christmas kilos at bay.  

The Easy After

30 11 2011

Post-race Easy by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

I’ve got a tad behind with my running blogs since the ‘glory’ of the WeRunBuenosAires 10km.  Probably because there wasn;t much to say about this run, just that I went with Mer and we both struggled terribly with leggy legs and lack of zest.  A definitely race hangover, but a very necessary run to keep the muscles honest.  Need to pick it up again soon – looking forward to a long run on Saturday in Montevideo. 

Comment on Scott Thornbury’s blog post ‘G is for Gist’

30 11 2011
mcneilmahon (02:57:04) :

Hi all,
Fascinating reading throughout and I find particular resonance in Wily, Simon and Rob’s posts.

The related question that I’ve been meaning to explore recently and haven’t got around to yet, which is part of Patrick’s question, is whether training our CELTA trainees or asking our own students ourselves to approach texts through gist and then detailed tasks (as I do everyday at the moment) is a valid way of teaching reading.

I have long advocated authentic tasks as being more important and relevant than ‘authentic’ texts, but would like to question further how authentic gist tasks are/can be and ditto detailed reading tasks. Shouldn’t we be encouraging our trainees and students to be approaching texts in the way we do in our L1s? And how practical is this within the confines of a course book driven syllabus or a pre-service training course.

Reading the first paragraph of a course book article to decide whether or not we want to read the whole thing would be an authentic gist task (but what do we do when the answer is no?). But reading an article and choosing which is the best title for it wouldn’t be.

The problem with authenticity seems to be the lack of text quantity and therefore choice in course books, which surely leads to the need for more student-selected texts – i.e. they do the gist reading before they come to class, through choosing texts they want to read as a class and deciding what to do with them. This just leaves the other students in the class with an authentic task to do to engage with that text once it’s been selected. But it also creates many problems for training courses such as CELTA. Can anyone help me with my conundrum?


Scott Thornbury (08:36:55) :

Hi Neil, don’t start me on coursebooks (!) but one reason why skimming and scanning tasks are so favoured may be that the texts in textbooks are NOT self-selected, and hence the only way to make them accessible and/or palatable is to treat them in a fairly superficial manner. And, after all, since many coursebook texts are superficial in terms of their content, the most logical approach to them might be that of the reader of the inflight magazine (to which coursebook texts bear an uncanny resemblance), i.e. the most cursory skim and flick.

As for your final question – maybe I’ll leave that one to the many pre-service trainers more experienced than I am who read this blog.

Comment on English Raven’s blog post ‘Mourning the Missing Makers’

28 11 2011


Jason, I don’t think your words are fairly said.

Simple reason being, as you summise yourself, is that the majority of the people you are attacking (do you have a list of who these gurus are BTW, I’d be interested to see how much we coincide)simply won’t have read your blog post and so won’t have had the chance to rise to your Halloween challenge.

And even if they did, I imagine Halloween is one of the least inspiring subjects for most teachers when it comes to developing new materials, there are already so many materials out there from the stimulating to the trite that it’s not particularly inspiring to be challenged to come up with a trick or treat jazz chant which practises unreal present conditionals, not that we can presume that that’ll be the emergent language coming out of our ‘Have you ever heard of Halloween?’ lead-in.

As far as I’m concerned, the gurus of EFL are more accessible and accountable and approachable than they ever have been and at the same time they didn’t actually achieve their guru status through creating lesson resources in the first place (which is perhaps why I’m still in the ‘average language teacher’ category) but through their contributions to methodology (e.g. Jeremy Harmer’s The Practice of English Language Teaching) and they are still very much sharing and contributing in this field on a regular (if not daily) basis (e.g. Jeremy’s contribution to IH TOC last Friday, or Scott’s weekly blog post (am I allowed to mention those names in the same sentence these days?)).

So while I admire your ‘opinion’ I think it’s much easier to criticise than it is to create and I’ll just remind you that I’ve never used any of your resources in my classroom…

Jason Renshaw dijo en respuesta a Amuseamuses.wordpress.com

Hi Neil,

Thanks for the contribution here, though I would like to stress:

– The Halloween activity was a lead-in example, not the central thrust (which was: Why don’t established materials writers experiment and share their craft across their ‘PLN’s? Is it possible they’re missing something important?). If you have examples of well-known commercial materials writers who do this, I’ll be very happily proved wrong! 🙂

– Please don’t confuse the notion of materials writers with resource/methodology writers (the latter I have found to be enormously approachable and sharing online — especially folks like Jeremy Harmer, Scott Thornbury, Gavin Dudeney, Nicky Hockly, etc.)

– I haven’t once used the word ‘gurus’ and I have expressed questions, not attacks

– I agree that it is easier to criticise than create, which is why I dedicate 98% of this blog to being creative and 2% to being (potentially) critical

– Not sure what your final reminder was for… Was it to encourage me to work harder? 🙂


Comment on Ceri Jones guest post on PaulinBCN’s blog – grading your school

28 11 2011


You hit the nail on the head Ceri in the sentence ‘We can take the first steps…’ it seems obvious to me that the recurring theme throughout your posts is that strong students take responsibility for their learning and weak students don’t. As teachers we need to be aware of ignorance and immaturity and insecurity and strive to turn them into awareness and maturity and confidence and so create more strong students and less weak students. But not to necessarily hold ourselves accountable if students fail even if they and their parents do.

Comment on West Brom 1 Spurs 3 on Spurs Community

27 11 2011


Before the game I was so excited because I saw this match as a real litmus test of how much better we are this season than in the last few. We hadn’t beaten West Brom in our last four attempts and it was always going to be a tough game and I could see myself trying to be content with a point if that was all we came away with. 

When I saw Luka wasn’t playing (even though I love Sandro) it obviously became even tougher. When we let the first goal in and it was clear that Younes was blipping and the SAS combo in midfield was taking it’s time to gel I also thought back to last season and thought this might be one of those days. It actually occurred to me at one point before the equaliser when we were being bossed about a little a bit and the crowd was massively in the game that perhaps we were on our way to our third defeat of the season and it may even be another heavy one. 

But what happened. This season’s Spurs started to play. We had some possession, slowed their momentum and eeked out some chances. We had some luck. Not the penalty decision, but the result of the miss. It was an awful penalty, but it didn’t matter. And suddenly it was clear that the most likely result was a come from behind ninth victory in ten and a virtual second place in the table. 

As David has said, SAS and Harry worked out a more effective way for them to play together (was it just my love for Sandro that made me think he was very harshly booked?). Lennon really got into the game and needled away at West Brom’s confidence on the back of winning the pen. And Jermain and Ade started to feel their way into a partnership, playing each other into space with some sublime touches.

While it wasn’t a foregone conclusion by any means, we had the experience of Fulham and Blackburn to give us the confidence to keep plugging away until the second goal came. 

And how Jermain took his chance. He is a different player to last season, it’s plain for all to see. Last year he was begging for a run in the team to help him restore his confidence after injury. This year shows it’s not so much about playing as who you play with. Ade makes both VDV and JD look better players. He’s not perfect by a long chalk (I doubt he’d make Peter Crouch look a better player and some of his shooting yesterday was Crouch-esque in its flimsiness) but he’s created a vast improvement in our striking department which is clearly seen in the amount of goals we’re scoring. 

We were building ourselves up before the game and we lived up to the billing during the game. Last year we’d have lost this game and perhaps some bad luck would have played it’s part. This year luck seems to be going our way. But you make your own luck and the winning mentality of Ade and Scotty as much as their footballing skills combined with Harry’s continued magic weaving and Levy’s incredible masterplan are what makes this team look like the first Tottenham team I can remember EVER watching (i.e. since 1978) that actually has that winning mentality. A great example of this is the football we now play when in the lead. We play a possession football up there with the best of them. We’re taking the ball down the channels and providing options behind to sweep it out to the other flank and repeat the process ad nauseum if we want to. There’s nothing better for the confidence (and Harry’s ticker) than to be able to play that kind of football when you’re winning. It’s been a weakness for a few years now and it’s something Harry has obviously worked on in training. 

Long may the winning mentality and the winning streak continue. I believe we can challenge at least one of the Manchester’s (the other may need some Tevez-inspired imploding in order to help us) and it’s blatantly obvious from the way the team is playing the game that so do the players, the manager and the chairman. I love them all.

I love you

26 11 2011

Funny that this song is probably about 20 years old, but I’ve just added the last verse this evening – let me know if you think it’s an improvement or not  :).

I love you

It’s gotta be said

Want you lying in my bed.

Rains all night, awake in the dark

Knowing you’re going to break my heart.


I love you

What else can I say

Want to know you every day.

I need you, it’s just this way

It’s the gorgeous look upon your face.


I love you

Don’t make me wait

Nothing but my heart to take

I need you, to decide my fate

Just say that you will stay to play!


I love you,

You know it’s true,

I’d do anything you want me to.

Sun comes up, the sky is blue,

Tell me that you love me too. 

Ways of Varying Feedback

22 11 2011

Ways of Varying Feedback

This is a handout that I originally used as part of my Feedback Fiesta talks, which then got distilled into the fourteen ways of varying feedback which are in the new version of Feedback Fiesta for 2011:

1.T reads out passage and stops before answers for SS to give answer.
2.SS nominate each other to answer.
3.T reads text with answers, SS listen with books closed. SS then open books and check answers with P, asking T about ones can’t remember or not sure of.
4.T only checks answers to ‘difficult’ questions.
5.SS check answers in pairs and if have different answers ask T/SS check with answers on board.
6.T gives SS answers with the homework. Ss do homework, check it themselves and bring questions to class.
7.T gives each SS one correct answer and SS mill to check all.
8.T chooses SS to write answer on board.
9.T calls out Q numbers randomly and SS race to board to write correct answers.
10.T gives half answers to one half of class and half to other, SS swap answers across class in shouting dictation.
11.T gives answers to one SS who corrects homework and then passes on to next SS. If someone hasn’t seen answers by end of class they have to ask another SS for homework.
12.T nominates SS to play T and get feedback from rest of class in any way they like.
13.T emails answers to SS between classes for them to self correct. SS email T with Qs before next class.
14.SS have laminated A4 sheet on which to write answer. T calls out Q and each group holds up answer on sheet.
These all come in useful when giving feedback on language or receptive skills tasks.  Do you have any other variations you use that you can add to the list?

We Run Buenos Aires – Nike 10k

12 11 2011

Nike 10k by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Player.

So the big day arrived and we managed to arrive at the finish line in one piece and happy with our days work.  We arrived downtown early so were close to the start line when the race started, which meant everyone around me was running noticeably faster than my body was intending to go.

The occasion and my mind had other ideas though and I got carried along the early kilometres at under a 6min/km pace, which I haven’t run since before my right knee injury if I remember rightly.

When I saw I was running at 103% heart rate at about 4k, I tried to slow down a bit, but I was judging myself by the runners around me rather than my watch which seemed to be going haywire.  Most times I looked at it it said I was doing 7 or nearly 8min/km, but when the km lap time came round I was under 6 again.  I just tried to stay with the slowest person near me for a while before they trotted off into the distance and I chose a new hare.

Mer had gone off ahead of me after I’d sprinted to catch up with her after the first water station and then she got stopped by a diabetic on Corrientes who was about to faint.  Cost her two or three minutes as she had to help her while someone went to buy her a coke.  Apparently she waved at me but I never saw her, lucky for me because if I’d stopped my knees would have swollen up and not let me start again.

I can understand the poor diabetic’s problem though, Corrientes was a killer.  The afternoon sun was beating down on the back of heads and there was nowhere to hide.  There were three or four long stretches of sun which really went to my head, thankfully the legs never gave up.  The last three kilometres were pure mind and mantra and I was dead on my feet crossing the line, but very pleased with 1:02:41 for the race and 1:00:58 for my own 10km it seems according to the trusty old Garmin.  Looking at the map shows the problems I was having headwise since I was all over the shop – lots of squiggles.  Actually it seems I kept up the sub one hour pace through Corrientes but once I got to the Gatorade drinking station and had a little walk while I took some on I couldn’t pick the pace up again since it was sunny all the way home.  

An excellent result all the same and brings hope that on a cooler day and without this annoying chest cough I may get back under an hour for 10k, even with two dodgy knees rather than one.  Raring to go for another race now, but not much left between now and the end of the year, so the aim must be to keep in shape over Christmas and get ready for a fuller running season next year, still taking it easy and stirring clear of injury.  


Looking at the results now seems I came in 5730 out of 15 000 which is pretty flattering since it makes it sound like I’m almost in the top third of runners who go in for these street races.  What it really shows is how close to the start line we were when we took off, cos I bet there were plenty of people that finished with a slower official time but better net time.   Great to see I was right on pace at 5km, that could be another short term training challenge perhaps, to run 5km under 30mins.  But take it easy Neil!

If you ever wanted to see me being tortured and under duress, you can watch me cross the finish line here.  I appear top right at about 01:03:15 and make my way across the line and the screen to the bottom right hand corner by 01:03:28.  Sun makes it look like I’ve got blonde hair, but I’m definitely in pain and wobbling all over the place… 

Easy does it

10 11 2011

Easy by mcneilmahon at Garmin Connect – Details.

My last training run before the big day on Saturday.  My first 10k race since 2009?  It can’t be, I must have done a few in 2010, but perhaps I haven’t done a race since I fell of my bike at the back end of 2009? 

Anyway an easy 6k today to build on the long run of yesterday and get my legs feeling how the last few k might feel on Saturday.  Would like to go for a swim tomorrow but since we have to go and fetch our kits I doubt I’ll get round to it.  

Thinking wise I tried to concentrate on making a to do list for Sunday about what I need to do for the conference but my body demanded my full attention so I didn’t get very far.  Going to be a busy two weeks with Montevideo next weekend and then the conference on the 25th.  Exciting times.