Descriptive, Prescriptive, Semiotics, & Variation...Oh my!

Was asked this question online once. Thought I'd pose it here and get your input: There [is / are] a vase and a flower on the table.

Click on the link above to see the thread that led to my response below...

Ok, so  we are talking about (a) descriptive English (i.e., how English is actually used), prescriptive English (i.e., what the book(s) say), (c) idiomatic expressions, and (d) English variation.  Anita alludes to a syntactic (and semantic/pragmatic) alternative as well.  I've always been of the belief that it's better to discuss each of the above issues with students instead of having personal opinions sway me in any one particular direction.  As far as (traditional) testing is concerned, I've stuck with prescriptive English over descriptive for the most part but this has not refrained me from teaching students other varieties of English (American/British English, descriptive/prescriptive, etc.).

Personal opinions aside, how would you go about teaching these different expressions?  Or do your personal opinions lean you to one particular style of English being taught in your classroom?

The Web of Identity: Identity Formation in Online Learning

As learners interact in online networks of learning, how do they come to know one another? Building on the work of Goffman (1959) and Foucault (1988), the Web of Identity (WoI) model shows how online learners may use dramaturgical strategies to create and negotiate their personal identities in a continuous flux of presentation and interpretation. Philosophically, the model is highly social constructionist and places a great emphasis on relational dialogue. For practitioners, the implications include finding ways to aid learners to improve their use and translation of WoI strategies. Such skill, theoretically, should help them to enact their unique personalities, lessen their sense of fragmentation, increase their sense of belonging, and gauge authenticity of others. The researchers will then discuss some preliminary research projects on identity in networked learning and future research in the field.

When: Wednesday, March 2, 2011, 11am-12pm Mountain Time (Canada)
*Local times for the CIDER sessions are provided on our website:

Where: Online via Elluminate at:

Please make sure your Mac or PC is equipped with a microphone and speakers, so that you can use the audio functionality built into the web conferencing software. Please note that it is extremely important that you get your system set up prior to the start of the event. Information on installing the necessary software and configuring your PC is available at in the "First Time Users" section.

CIDER sessions are brought to you by the Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University - Canada's Open University and leader in professional online education.

CIDER is a Community Partner of Elluminate - - who proudly sponsors our web conferencing needs. To sign up for a free, no obligation three-user version of Elluminate, please visit

Reading Comprehension 2.0

Explores how the use of digital resources and free web 2.0 tools can improve reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and other related literacy skills.

Jessica Fries-Gaither is an education resource specialist in the College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. She serves as project director for the NSF-funded Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears and is also involved with the Middle School Portal 2: Math and Science Pathways (also funded by NSF).

Webinar: What’s ELF and BELF and does it matter?

The role English plays as an international business lingua franca has attracted the interest of some of the world’s top researchers in linguistics. How is successful communication achieved when many or all of the people involved aren’t native English speakers? And what implications does this have for the kind of English we should be teaching in our business English classes?

In the next of BESIG’s successful series of webinars, the world’s top authorities on ELF will be meeting ‘virtually’ to hammer it out. In this online discussion you can come and find out what they’re thinking and join in the debate.

Jennifer Jenkins, who set everyone talking with her ground breaking research into ELF phonology will be a panelist, along with Mark Powell, our favourite author and ‘lean English’ ELF skeptic. Internet willing, Barbara Seidlhofer, leader of the VOICE (Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English) project and the world’s foremost authority on the lexico-grammar of ELF, will also be there in a discussion chaired by Vicki Hollett. And other key figures will be stopping by, such as Almut Koester,Susanne Ehrenreich, Jeremy Comfort, Ian McMaster, Robin Walker and many more.


Open Content Licensing for Educators

Open content licensing for educators is a free online workshop designed for educators who want to learn more about open education resources, copyright, and creative commons licenses.

The course materials were developed as a collaborative project by volunteers from the OER FoundationWikiEducator, the OpenCourseWare Consortium and Creative Commons. The course will provide prerequisite knowledge required by educators to legally remix open education materials and help institutions to take informed decisions about open content licenses.

We acknowledge and thank UNESCO for their financial support for the inaugural presentation of this free workshop scheduled for 21 - 25 March 2011.

LUIS Lesson Plan

As part of an ongoing series of live sessions dedicated to TESOL, on Monday I will discuss the Language and Understanding Integrative Sense-making (LUIS) Lesson Plan which is an adapted SIOP Lesson Plan incorporating Wiggins and McTighe's notion of understanding and assessment, Popham's idea of learning progression, a personal learning network (PLN), and how a PLN influences change regarding an EFL educator's ideas, beliefs, and/or actions.  You're encouraged to take part in the discussion!

delt0111: Learning English in Chunks

Watch this video and reflect on how people learn languages.

Activity options:

1. Add a comment below and discuss your thoughts and opinions regarding this video.

2. Add a comment to your blog (linking this video), discussing your own thoughts and opinions regarding this video (using the hashtag #delt0111)

2. Create your own 90 second video, explaining your own method of teaching EFL/ESL. Then upload it to YouTube or some other video hosting site and share it here.

Choose any of the above activities and feel free to work individually or in groups.

DELT Workshop

#delt0110: The Future of Education

A viewpoint on the future of education:

At 1:47, the comment was made: we will have institutions.

Yes, we will have institutions, but they will not look like they do today.  There will be no 100% face-to-face classes which will dramatically alter how methodologies are currently being used today – notice I’m not committing to a timeframe here (smile).  I don't think classes will look like they do in the video at 1:48.  The line between formal and informal education will continue to dissipate causing institutions to develop additional ways of accrediting one's knowledge and skill set, ultimately forcing schools to find innovative ways to deliver content and to promote interaction.  Institutions will be forced to adapt to new ways of learning.

One could argue that learners from 100 years ago could recognize the schools of today, but many learners would not be able to get through a school day given the changes to not only the schools themselves but society as a whole.  This video supports this common hypothetical but I do not agree that such a disconnect exists between schools and society.  I understand it’s a hypothetical, but tend to avoid it when comparing past, present, and future views of education.

What are your thoughts?

#delt0110: Open, online Distance English Language Training Workshop

Today officially begins day one of an open, online Distance English Language Training (DELT) workshop designed for pre-service and in-service English language educators.  The workshop will be partly asynchronous using the Moodle platform and partly synchronous using the Educators 2.0.  The first live meeting is scheduled for this Friday.

The hashtag #delt0110 will be used to track online discussions so please use this when blogging, tweeting, etc.

Any questions regarding the workshop may be posted to this blog and will be responded to immediately.