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This is a post detailing my investigation into a particular aspect of English language teaching (ELT) that I undertook as part of a Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA) at UCL. You can find details about the course they run at UCL here.

This post is also the first in what I hope becomes a series detailing different teachers and trainees’ experiences in exploring and experimenting with their own teaching practice. You can read the introduction to all of this here.

NOTE – this post is adapted from a graded assignment so the text that follows should not be reproduced on or off the Internet without my prior consent. Cambridge ESOL also keep a database of all assignments completed for the DELTA, so if you are taking the qualification and copy anything that you read below without attributing it, you will probably be found out and penalised for plagiarism. I have been reliably informed that this means you will fail and will be barred from taking the DELTA again for a certain period of time. You have been warned!!!

Neuro-linguistic programming. What?

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a training philosophy and selection of techniques initially conceived by John Grinder and Richard Bandler in the mid-1970s. I wrote a very brief introduction to my exploration of this before. The idea (as you wouldn’t really term it as a theory) behind NLP is that the world is experienced through language, and the way we use language shapes our experience of the world. What follows on from this is that perhaps we can change our experience of the world if we change the language we use to describe it. Grindler and Bandler were ‘interested in discovering how successful communicators achieved their success [concluding] that they “followed similar patterns in relating to their clients and the language they used’ and that they believed strongly in what they were doing (Richards and Rodgers, 2001: 125; Revell and Norman 1997: 14).

You what??

Well, yes, it is a rather contentious idea, and there has been criticism. In fact, even the two people who have led the move in integrating NLP in language teaching, Susan Norman and Jane Revell, have admitted that there is no proof that it actually works. The assumptions on which NLP are based ‘need not be accepted as the absolute truth, but acting as if they were true can make a world of difference in your life and in your teaching’ (Revell and Norman, 1997: 15).

They counter the lack of theory behind NLP by instead focusing on the idea that believing that it can bring about a more positive attitude.

So what?

I was interested in the different approach offered by adopting NLP techniques in the language classroom, as distinct from the normal, grammar/lexis/skill orientated lessons that one often ends up facilitating. The opportunity to involve my students more fully in an experience, in which there would be a focus on language, but in which they would be able to bring all their resources to (i.e. linguistic resources, but also personal experience, interpretation, imagination, etc.)

I devised a lesson based around an activity from Unlocking self-expression through NLP by Mario Rinvolucri and Judith Baker, that would provide my students with the opportunity to experience a guided visualisation and see what language could be generated and learnt through such an experience.

And… what?

Here is the PDF of my experimental practice assignment, including the analysis and student feedback I got following the experimental lesson. I’ll just reiterate that this should not appear in any print or online format anywhere without my prior consent, and that if you are doing the DELTA and decide to copy parts of my assignment, well… you know the penalties for plagiarism =)

Mike Harrison – Using guided fantasy in the classroom*

*Note that in the assignment I have used the term guided fantasy and guided visualisation to refer to the same activity.


  • Baker, J., and M. Rivolucri. 2004. Unlocking self-expression through NLP. DELTA Publishing
  • Revell, J., and S. Norman. 1997. In Your Hands: NLP in ELT. London: Sapphire Press.
  • Richards, J., and T. Rodgers. 2001. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching: Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Bibliography – from the assignment

  • Baker, J. and Rinvolucri, M. (2005) Unlocking self-expression through NLP, Surrey: Delta Publishing
  • Clare, A and Wilson, JJ. (2006) Total English: Intermediate, Harlow: Pearson Education Limited
  • Pinker, S. (1994/2000) The Language Instinct, Penguin
  • Richards, J. and Rogers, T (2001) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Revell, J. and Norman, S. (1997) In Your Hands: NLP in ELT, London: Sapphire Press
  • Revell, J. and Norman, S. (1999) Handing Over: NLP-based activities for language learning, London: Sapphire Press
  • Thornbury, S. (2006) An A to Z of ELT, Oxford: Macmillan


  • Cleveland Clinic, Guided Imagery, cts.aspx [accessed 27.04.2012 17.05]
  • The Skeptic’s Dictionary [accessed 29.04.2012]
  • Tosey, P. and Mathison, J. (2006) Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Guildford: University of Surrey [accessed 29.04.2012 12.45]
  • Working Group on ESOL (2000) Breaking the Language Barriers, [accessed 29.04.2012 12.45]