BELTE 2011 – Saturday 15 October 2011

Opening talk for the BELTE 2011

This blog post has been on my to-do list for over a month and I am really glad to eventually put pen-to-paper (or  fingers-to-keyboard).  I travelled to Brighton for the annual BELTE (Brighton English Language Teaching Event) last month with the aim to meet some familiar faces and catch up with those that I met (albeit virtually) on Twitter.  Gordon Watts pulled out all the stops when organising the event (in association with Sussex Director of Studies Association) and there were some big names presenting during the day.

Nevertheless, when I arrived at the main building for the annual BELTE, I was provided with a free bag of goodies (an IELTS book, some publicity material as well as a summary of speakers for the day).  As expected, there were various publishers and representatives in the main hall of the school.  There were some people (teachers and publishers) that I recognised and we had the chance to catch up.  It was wonderful to see the LTC Eastbourne (whom I work with quite regularly) as well as the charity that I volunteer for on Saturdays, English in the Community, present at the BELTE.  For the opening of the annual event, the Mayor of Brighton, Anne Meadows, was present and provided some warm words of encouragement for the ELT industry.  After the opening of the event, I had the privilege to chat to Jeremy Harmer who was going to give a talk on Dogme ELT and was able to share some views and opinions of this technique of language teaching.  Also present was Mike Harrison which I met at previous EFL Conferences, including the BELTE 2010.

Annie detailing the elements of Academic Writing

The first talk that I decided to attend was focused on “Principles of Academic Writing” by Annie Broadhead.  It was an useful talk but I felt that it focused too heavily on the alignment of writing with ESOL Examinations, rather than providing any useful lesson ideas or lesson recipes which could of been incorporated into future ESP classes.  Nevertheless, it reconfirmed the idea that ESP classes are expected to produce genuine results within a specified time period and the pressure on teachers could be overwhelming.  However, the speaker providing some great ideas for teaching Academic Writing such as looking at cohesive and linking devices, incorporating the CEF (Common European Framework) into classes as well as developing student autonomy when they check their own written compositions.

Jacqui sharing her ideas on rapport in the classroom

The next talk that I attended was “Rapport and Empathy in the Learning Environment” by Jacqui Dowding.  This was an incredibly useful talk as Jacqui introduced the importance of developing rapport and empathy within the learner classroom.  She introduced the idea of rapport and empathy, then provided attendees to discuss how they develop rapport with their students.  When I first started my CELTA course at the British Council in Seoul, I was advised to initially develop rapport with the learners as everything else falls into place.  However, I was left wondering how to develop rapport.  This workshop offered to plug in the gaps and answered this question.  It was incredibly useful to learn further techniques and ideas to develop rapport.  Some of the ideas presented in the talk was to include humour, share forth comings as well as learn more about student backgrounds.  Unfortunately, with humanistic as well as sociolinguistic forms of teaching and learner backgrounds, it is intangible and can be elusive.  I suppose the largest aspect to consider when developing rapport and empathy within the classroom, is to be more approachable in classroom and seen as a friend to help and guide students on their road to language learning.  It would have been useful to receive some teaching ideas or a cookbook of teaching recipes to incorporate in the classroom to develop and extend rapport with learners.  Most teachers are aware of the common GTKY activities but I have never really looked at improving my classes devoted to developing rapport.  However, I suppose there is an important correlation between rapport with learners and improving a conversation-driven approach to Dogme ELT (and apologies if I try to draw a distinction between the two but I believe firmly that this is definitely the case).

Mike Harrison making notes on his iPad

The following talk that I attended was focused on “Teacher Observations: What is a good teacher? And who says so?” by Vic Richardson.  This talk looked at an initial video of a newly certified EFL teacher, teaching a range of learners from a coursebook and we were requested to share our opinions of the teacher (a pretty bold approach to assess a teacher from a one minute video clip and whether it was successful).  Nevertheless, the talk progressed towards detailing what makes a ‘good‘ teacher and whether there is a distinction with an ‘expert‘ teacher.  Vic determined that there indeed there was a difference and an expert teacher:

  • can identify essential representations of their subject
  • can guide learning and provide feedback
  • can monitor learning and provide feedback
  • can attend to affective attributes
  • can influence student outcomes
When comparing to “Teaching Unplugged” (2009), it becomes apparent that these characteristics are similar to teachers willing to pursue Dogme ELT.  For example, a Dogme ELT teacher adheres to the following principles:
  • establishing a classroom dynamic that is conducive to interactive talk
  • orientating lessons to the learners’ needs and interests
  • setting up activities that are language productive
  • providing the necessary scaffolding to support talk in a second language
  • recording, reviewing and recycling instances of learner language
Essentially, an ‘expert‘ teacher is one that incorporate traits not that dissimilar to Dogme ELT.  However, one must question the suitability of assessing and observing teachers as Dogme ELT, as is other forms of humanistic teaching, intangible.  Furthermore, how can someone observe and grade a teacher if they are seeking something which is intangible as is Dogme?  I put this question to Vic but his answer was less than adequate.  Perhaps he was not expecting such a question but it got me thinking whether Dogme can be assessed and whether it is either possible to observe possible Dogme-moments in the ELT classroom.  I would welcome for Vic to respond to this question that I initially put to him.
Does anyone know what this Dogme lark is?
The final talk that I attended was “Teaching unplugged beats Acquisition?  What to teach to whom, with what and why?” by Jeremy Harmer.  It was definitely a talk that I wanted to attend as it was related to my MA Dissertation and it would offer me the opportunity to listen to this particular area of ELT.  This talk was suitable for those teachers that were new as well as those that had much experience of incorporating Dogme ELT.  Jeremy conveyed well the principles of Teaching Unplugged and used video interviews within his presentation so that those around the world could share their experience of Dogme ELT.  This demonstrated that Dogme was incidental and happened when teachers were least expecting it.  Next he introduced the idea of language acquisition with reference to multiple intelligences. He questioned whether teaching unplugged would suit a particular set of learners and whether more structured and regimental forms of learning with greater aims be best for other learners.  It was an interesting concept and found that it provided greater scope to consider.  Nevertheless, it was great to finally hear about Dogme out of the context of my Dissertation.
It was an incredibly rewarding day and I look forward to next years BELTE Conference.  There was talk that the next BELTE will try to include some form of technology or twitter feed.  This would be really useful and I hope that this is really the case.  It was wonderful to meet so many teachers in such a wonderful location.

29th Annual International TESOL France Colloquium

I was fortunate enough (and lucky enough to pursuade the wife) to head over to Paris for the 29th TESOL France ColloquiumThe conference was organised between 26th and 28th November 2010.  This was the 2nd time I have been to a EFL related conference, with the BELTE being my first conference.  This was the first time I have been in France in around 10 years.  The last time I was in Paris, I visited with my father and took a coach from London.  This time around, my wife and I took the Eurostar at 9:30am on Friday morning.  Having arrived at Garé Du Nord at noon, we bought a pack of ten metro/bus/train tickets for €12.  We picked up a map of the metro and we planned our journey to the hotel.  We were staying at the Tim Hotel in Paris near Place d’Italie for about €250 for two nights.  It was a bit expensive and I am sure we could have found something a bit more affordable or more luxurious.
I kindly met Bethany Cagnol promptly whilst I was checking in at the hotel.  Again, it was nice to meet a fellow twitterers (Mike Harrison, Vicky Loras, Eva Buyuksimkesyan, Willy Cardoso, Sue Lyon-Jones, Shelly Terrell, Karenne Sylvester, Sue Annan, Elizabeth Anne, Vladimira Michalkova, Marisa Constantinides, etc).  After checking in and unpacking in the room, I went to the conference to register and collect the bag of goodies.
The directions of the venue were complemented with signs from the entrance of Corvisart Metro station leading down the road and then up to the building.  At the conference, there were various bookstands and publishers.  It was a great opportunity to network and meet likeminded individuals that had travelled from Europe (and further afield).  There were also authors that attended the event including; Lindsay Clandfield, Ben Crystal, Ken Wilson, Simon Greenall, etc.

The Friday Plenary Speaker was David Hill (26th October 2010) between 17:00 and 18:00.  David’s Opening Plenary focused on “Why Extensive Reading is Essential“.  David introduced the Plenary by referring to Frank Smith’s assertion, “We do learn to read by reading” (Smith, 1975).  There was also some reference to Extensive Reading and Book Floods in countries where English is taught as a Second or Additional Language.  David Hill also provided some advice for introducing Extensive Reading within a school, some of this was echoed by Rob Waring:

First, let us consider what the program will look like when it is up and running. When the program is fully functional it will:

• be an integral part of the school’s curriculum;
• raise the learners’ reading ability and general English levels and have knock-on effects on their writing skills, spelling, grammar and speaking;
• motivate the learners to read, and learn from their reading;
• have goals that set out how much reading should be done and by when;
• have a reading library from which learners can select their own texts;
• have systems in place for cataloguing, labeling, checking out, recording and returning the reading materials;
• have a variety of materials to read, not only graded readers and other simplified materials;
• show teachers, parents and the administration that you take ER seriously;
• have targets of both learner and program attainment that clearly show the success of the program;
• be bigger and more resilient than one teacher and have sufficient support that it will continue indefinitely.

Much of the grounding on Extensive Reading is related to Krashen’s Input Theory, whereby comprehensible input is one step more advanced than the current students’ level.  The reading of texts for pleasure should provide students the opportunity to accumulate vocabulary and improve interlanguage.  Much of the reading provided for students, is material that should interest or motivate them.  Nonetheless, David Hill referred to the English version Harry Potter books being sold in Germany prior to the translated versions; whereby children (and I guess some adults) bought the English version or they had to wait 6 months for the translated version.  One disadvantage to Extensive Reading is that it could be quite costly to purchase a variety of books for the school.  However, the students could purchase their own books.  Perhaps a trip to a book shop could be incorporated into a social programme.  Nevertheless, the theory and evidence does show some grounding in Extensive Reading.  Further information about Extensive Reading is available to view at the Internet TEFL Journal and by Barbara Blair.

In the evening, there was a comedy event featuring Ben Crystal, Hilary Crystal and David Crystal.  Much of the comedy revolved around classics such as; Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Victor Borge and some aspects of William Shakespear.  There are some YouTube videos below with reference to some of the sketches performed that evening.  After the colloquium, some of us that went to a local cafe/bistro for a bite to eat and something to drink.  It was a wonderful first day for such a well organised event.  I would encourage other EFL Teachers to try and head over next year for the 30th Annual TESOL France Colloquium.

YouTube Videos

Victor Borge – Phonetic Pronunciation

Victor Borge – Inflationary Language

Ronnie Barker – Mispronunciation


Tighten your BELTE in 2010

The location of the BELTE 2010.

I was fortunate to attend the BELTE (Brighton English Language Teaching Event) 2010 on Saturday 22 October 2010; the event was (I was led to believe) only in it’s second year.  The BELTE really was great preparation for the IATEFL 2011, which will also be hosted in Brighton next year at the Brighton Conference.  The event was located at Bellerby’s College and it was tucked away next to the train station.  I met various other teachers who had trouble finding the college and we strolled around for quite a time and then bumped into other teachers looking for the location.  Fortunately, I had my iPhone and Google Maps to hand so we were able to locate the school and arrive in time for the opening of the event.

After signing in for the event, I received a goody-bag full of marketing material and a stick of Sussex DoSA (Brighton) Rock.  The Sussex DoSA is a great association organised by various Director of Studies on the South East coast which arrange CPD courses for EFL Teachers, Managers and stakeholders.  Although they work at competing private language schools, they share experiences, provide opportunities for teachers to develop and meet on a regular basis.  Nonetheless, I met various students on the MA ELT course from the University of Sussex, some members from the Sussex DoSA Group that I knew and was also pleased to see so many familiar faces from LTC Eastbourne.  From entering the premises of Study Group, I went into the main hall and saw many many publishers, book sellers and various businesses.  For a few minutes, I was quite shocked how popular this event was.  The Mayor and Mayoress of Brighton even arrived to provide a speech and declare the event officially open.

Mayor of Brighton beside the manager of Study Group.

After the various speeches, the event was officially open and I decided to choose the workshops to attend and have a quick coffee.  I quickly chose Theresa Clementson (who is also on the MA ELT course) who has co-authored the English Unlimited series, published from Cambridge University Press, as well as Adrian Underhill, author of Sound Foundations from Macmillan Publishers.  The third workshop that I wished to attend was related to Culture in our Classroom organised Gill Johnson.  The first two workshops that I attended were really very good and contributed to my current teaching methodology.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the third workshop but, from what I hear, it was very very good.  Further information about the speakers and guests of the BELTE 2010 are available to view here.

Theresa Clementson
This talk provides practical ideas for ensuring we teach ‘real’ English by basing lessons around transferable communicative goals and language drawn from authentic sources. You will be given a solid framework of lessons that enable learners to achieve real-life communicative outcomes in class. Theresa has been involved in ELT for over 20 years, teaching and developing materials in Spain and the UK. She is a team-member of authors on English Unlimited, a new general course book [CUP, 2010]

Adrian Underhill
There need be no mystery or fear in teaching pronunciation, but rather success and fun! Experience an approach that enables learners to discover the muscles that actually make the pronunciation difference. This approach eliminates time taken on habit formation and repetition and liberates the body to work with the ear. Integrates sounds, words and connected speech into all aspects of language work, and offers multiple benefits to speaking, listening and reading. See if you agree!   Adrian is a freelance ELT consultant and trainer, working mainly on staff and organisational development. He is Series editor of Macmillan Books for Teachers, author of Sound Foundations, advisor to Macmillan English Dictionaries and past President of IATEFL. Current interests include applications of complexity theory and systematic thinking to learning, and improvisation in teaching.

Adrian Underhill and his happiest moment with a phonemic chart.

As detailed above, the two speakers were very good and the aim for each workshop was maintained.  It was quite interesting to be in a room of an author who had written various books.  Adrian Underhill demonstrated various pronunciation activities to assist in raising students’ awareness of phonetics in the classroom.

The fellow ELT Professionals that use Twitter.

The event would not have been anything had it not been for the fact that I was able to meet some fellow twitterers (or are they called twitters or twitts?).  I was able to meet some fellow like-minded people that I follow at the BELTE this year.  These included; @harrisonmike, @pysproblem81, @CallieWallie1, @Amandalanguage & @BCseminars.  I believe @CallieWallie1 and @Amandalanguage both travelled four hours to get to the event in Brighton and really commend them on their effort to get there.

I was able to get my hands on a new book and met up with BEBC (as they had a book stall there).  The book that I bought (and shall be reviewing on my blog in due course) is “Online Teaching” by Nicky Hockly with Lindsay Clandfield.  I met up with John Walsh (the MD) and the lovely assistant.  Fortunately, BEBC were offering a 20% discount on all the book titles and was keen to get a decent book; hence the prompt buy.  BEBC are also on Twitter, known as @Books4English.

Overall, it was great meeting other people and it really opened my eyes to the ELT Community in the South East.  It would be great to meet everyone at the upcoming IATEFL in 2011.  I shall finish this blog post off with a photo of those aforementioned twitterers/twitters/twitts on the steps of the infamous BELTE Building.

Games in the Classroom: Workshop

I went to a workshop at LTC Eastbourne on Monday 19 July 2010 and it was about “Games in the Classroom”.  The idea behind this workshop was to introduce common games to assist with teaching and learning in the classroom.

The principal idea about games, particulary circle games, is that they “encourage the whole class to work together” as well as facilitate the learning experience and offer an opportunity for learners to practice using English in a friendly and informal setting.  When I teach children and teenagers, I find it particulary important to include a form of competitive game (or informal language practice) each day which is linked with the theme, topic or grammar point.

Anyhow, during the workshop teachers were encouraged to think about their favourite EFL games that they include in lesson.  Among teachers there were a list such as; Chinese Whispers, Stop the Bus, Hotseat, Circle Games as well as many others.

I decided to extend this list, as well as further ideas, for EFL Games:

Stop the Bus
Divide the class into groups of three or four people each. On the board, write five or more categories (foods, nouns with more than five letters, jobs, adjectives to describe people, animals, capitol cities). Give the students a letter (H); their task is to come up with one example of each category that begins with that letter (hot dog, hamburger, hotel receptionist, helpful, hyena, Havana). I usually do an example with the whole class before we start the real competition. When a group has one example for each category written down, they say “Stop the bus!” and you check. If their answers are good you can continue with the same categories but a different letter. Another version is giving them a time limit and seeing how many unique examples of each category they can come up with in that time (“unique” meaning no other group writes it).

Hot Seat
Divide the class into two teams, and have each team send one representative to the front of the class. Each representative sits on a chair with his/her back to the board.  You write a word behind each representative, and the team has to explain or define that word so that the representative can guess it. The first representative to correctly guess the word written behind him/her gets a point for the team and the round is over. Two new representatives come to the front. You may have to explicitly forbid pantomime or using any form of the word on the board (“Teacher”…a person who teaches) and of course any translation.

Chinese Whispers
A common and traditional game whereby two rows (or could be more) sit on chairs or perhaps stand.  You show a word to each person at the end of the row and they have to whisper to the person in front.  This game can be amended to include grammar points, questions, collocations, synonyms, etc.  It is a reliable and relaxing way to introduce new vocabulary.

False Information
This is a personal favourite GTKY (get to know you) game/activity.  You demonstrate this initially on the whiteboard by writing three personal sentences, for example:

1. I have been teaching since 2005.
2. I am 35 years old.
3. I can speak some Korean.

Students have to guess the sentence that is false.  By the way, it is number 2.  Once you get some feedback, get students to write three sentences about themselves.  Make sure you explain it can be about anything (family, friends, hobbies, etc) but it must include a sentence that is false.  Get students to mingle and they have to guess their partner’s true and false sentences.  This activity alone can last about 20 minutes.

Just a Minute
This activity is developed from the famous and long-running BBC Radio show.  Demonstrate the game by playing a recording or YouTube video from the Radio Show (such as below), and elicit from students the rules of the game.  Once rules are understood, you give students a topic to talk about for a minute.  If students make a grammar mistake, repeat themselves or think too much.  The teacher has to act as a mediator/chairperson.  This activity will allow students to practice speaking in an informal and competitive setting.

There were plenty other games included in the workshop but I have selected some that were discussed during the workshop.

Brighton IATEFL 45th Annual Conference

I have just received the information about the 2011 IATEFL Conference in Brighton in a form of a nice booklet.  I am planning to go to this conference next year and it will be my nice conference.  I have viewed the conference online but there is nothing like being there in person.  I am curious what to expect but I hope to meet likeminded teachers at this event.  It will be the year of my graduation from the MA in English Language Teaching at the University of Sussex.