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  • Letter (164)
  • Article (74)
  • Notes (19)
  • Lesson/Workshop Outline (12)
  • Report (6)
  • Conference paper (5)
  • Interview (4)
  • Miscellanous (4)
  • Activity/game (1)


  • letters (43)
  • NLP (40)
  • Mario Rinvolucri (31)
  • Dictation (10)
  • feedback (10)
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Mario Rinvolucri´s Archive

This extensive archive of writing by Mario Rinvolucri includes:

  • articles written at various times throughout his career for a range of ELT journals and newsletters, mostly original drafts, some of which may have been edited for eventual publication
  • ideas and materials for classroom activities, many of which appeared initially in Pilgrims publications and subsequently in teacher’s resource books written or co-written by Mario for mainstream ELT publishers
  • letters to groups of students, individual students, colleagues

Spanning the length of Mario’s career as teacher, trainer and writer from the late 1960s to the early 2000s, the archive functions as a ‘shadow history’ of ideas and practices that have long provided curious teachers with creative alternatives to standard coursebook tasks and activities. This is a particularly rich repository of writing from a practitioner who questioned received ideas about language teaching and learning, constantly exploring ways in which the profession might benefit from practices outside mainstream ELT, from counselling to psychodrama to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Fortunately, Mario preserved an enormous amount of his writing, but while his contribution to the Humanistic turn in ELT was highly influential, it was far from unique. It is just one example of a rich communication network with ELT colleagues, editors, and students, but as can be seen from many of the practitioner profiles and video interviews, the ELT landscape in the late 1970s was distinguished by the ideas and practices of many similarly idiosyncratic and innovative spirits, any one of  whom could provide their own distinctive ‘shadow history’.

Many of Mario’s documents were in typescript, some of them handwritten, and one of the aims of digitising but preserving the material in its original form was to retain the  authenticity of the original form rather than neutralising it by having everything appear in a standardised document format.


Humanistic practitioners often talk about the importance of ‘being present’ in the classroom, listening attentively to what learners are saying, and attending to what is going on in the room; Mario’s letters demonstrate a conscientious educator attempting to ‘be present’ in this way, but on the page. As he sometimes admits himself, the attempt does not always succeed: sometimes he feels he has ‘over-shared’, jumped to the wrong conclusions, or been too forthright in expressing his personal opinions or giving vent to his feelings. But on balance, the letters reveal a genuine effort to get below the surface of strictly codified teacher-student relationships and establish real human contact and greater mutual trust, respect and understanding.

The letters form a major part of the archive and always remained a central aspect of Mario’s practice as a language educator, but for reasons of privacy, only Mario’s side of correspondence with learners is included, while the names of students and trainees have been redacted. In some cases, some of the content of Mario’s letters has also been redacted, where that content would have made the addressee easily identifiable. Clearly, this necessary editorial restraint only leaves the reader with half the story: we read what Mario wrote, but we never see the replies he received. However, where the correspondence developed, as it often did, into a chain of written exchanges, we get quite a strong sense of the content, if not the style or tone, of the replies, as naturally, Mario very often refers to what his correspondents have said, and thus we can infer much of the substance of the replies without actually reading them.

In many of the initial letters to groups included in the archive, Mario introduces his learners to the idea of the correspondence, explaining the rationale for the letter-writing, which although it is a familiar human activity (whether by email, SMS messaging or traditional snail mail), is also a rather unconventional means of communication between teacher and learner. Two pieces in the archive, “Letter Writing in Class” (ELT Review 1991) and “Letter Writing in the Classroom and humanistic teaching” (IH Journal 2001), discuss the benefits (and some of the pitfalls) of the practice. The letter-writing approach also formed the basis for a book, Letters (1996), co-written by Marion, Nicky Burbidge, Peta Gray and Sheila Levy, which appeared in the OUP Resource Books for Teachers series. The introduction to that book, which appears to have been jointly composed but bears strong traces of Mario’s voice, and the foreword by Alan Maley, the series editor, provide further insights into the practice of teachers striking up a personal correspondence with their students.

The book first introduces the letter as a written genre, focusing on both personal and formal letters. This is followed by a set of activities for using letters in various ways: using them intact, changing them, and making use of them as springboards for other activities. The rest of the book is devoted to ‘Letters across the classroom’ and ‘Letters out from the class’, which together amount to the letter-based methodology that underpins the many examples of letters included in the archive. Characteristically and in keeping with the ‘resource book’ format, this methodology is conveyed by Mario and his co-authors through exemplary activities rather than an explanatory essay about the virtues of letter-writing with students. But the key principles of taking a serious interest in learners as persons, and the teacher being honest about their own personal history and emotional response to classroom events and group dynamics, can clearly be seen in these activities.

Even though it has only been possible to include the teacher’s side of Mario’s correspondence with his learners, the letters presented here provide a uniquely privileged insight into how the exchanges worked in practice.


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