ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

Year: 2011 (page 1 of 2)

Reflection of 2011 – The #11from11 Challenge

I can’t believe it.  The year has literally flown by and I sit with wonder with a cup of coffee thinking about what I have actually done with the time.  Having read Mike Harrison’s blog post reflecting on his 11 posts from 2011 (challenged by @yearinthelifeof), I thought I should take up Adam Simpson’s challenge and write about 2011: it would offer some aspect of reflection and highlight what has been achieved during the past 12 months.  So without further ado, here is a reflection of my top 11 blog posts from 2011.

MA ELT – Assignments Complete: This was a brief blog post that reflected upon my studies at the University of Sussex and it is quite nice to look reflect on what I was focusing on during the beginning of the new term.  It is nice to look back and take stock of the Advanced Practical Teaching course (with my Dogme experimental observed lesson).  It is nice to see that I had posted/achieved what I planned to focus on: posting about the IATEFL in Brighton, wrote further book reviews.  Unfortunately, it was rather ambitious to write a weekly ELT related blog post and this was not fully exploited.

Pronunciation & Language Learning: This is one of my favourite blog posts this year and I continue returning to it to retrieve the same lesson plan (Pronunciation Phone Numbers) for my own YL/Adult classes.  It is successful and the learners love doing this lesson again and again.  It is also useful for readers to learn more about pronunciation and get some idea about pronunciation aims from the perspective of learners as it also included a little research analysis.

Using Newspapers in Class: This was an earlier blog post in February and it was reflection on the use of newspapers in the classroom as I had a formal observation at the University of Sussex as part of one of my courses.  In this blog post there were some images of my Teaching Practice portfolio and the materials that I prepared in class.  Also included in the blog post was the PowerPoint that I prepared for the lesson and all necessary materials that were required so that other readers could do this lesson if necessary.

Unplugged Teaching Practice – Formal Observations: During March, I was focusing on Dogme ELT for my Teaching Practice and it was the first ever time that I attempted a Dogme-related lesson.  Furthermore, I was having it being recorded and was also observed … so the pressure was on.  In this blog post I included my formal lesson plan, a video of Scott Thornbury, a self-evaluation of the lesson as well as a poster promoting a Dogme talk by Luke Meddings.  I suppose had it not been for attempting the Dogme lesson, I would not have researched Dogme ELT for my dissertation.

The 2011 IATEFL Brighton Conference: Life As A Steward – Day One: Having applied to volunteer as a Steward at the 2011 IATEFL Brighton Conference, I was requested to attend a training morning at the weekend and then start stewarding for the start of the conference.  It was a wonderful chance to meet so many people that I met in the twittersphere/blogosphere.  I always remember so many boxes piling up by the entrance in preparation for the rest of the week.  Thankfully, they all had disappeared the following day.

Teaching Unplugged – My First Video: This was a blog post focused on my Dogme ELT Teaching Practice from March 2011, which was recorded.  Having received the entire recording of my lesson, it was really useful to watch it back and look at how the lesson developed.  Over the following two months, I edited the video to a more manageable viewing of eight minutes.  It was so nice to share this with my readers.

Dogme for Elementary Japanese Learners: Whilst I MA classes had finished, I had some time to write my dissertation (which was focused on Dogme ELT) as well as teach part-time.  I was provided the opportunity to teach at the University of Sussex with Japanese Learners that had visited for two weeks.  It was so nice to incorporate my research in the classroom and decided to share a case of emergent language with Japanese Elementary Learners.  I have used this example within many teacher training workshops … so it is an incredibly important blog post that I hold close to.

Dogme ELT – Dissertation Short Summary:  Having completed and submitted my Dogme ELT dissertation, I decided to share an abridged version for all those people that helped directly or indirectly with my research.  It provides readers the opportunity to view a short summary of the dissertation and offer ideas for their research (if they are undertaking an MA or other related course).

iPad Game Lesson Plan: “Jetpack Joyride”: Having read (prior to reviewing the book) “Digital Play”, I was inspired to create a lesson plan that included some form of game.  It was a challenge but I decided on an iPad game called “Jetpack Joyride” and also included a video that was available to watch on YouTube.  I used some of the images of the video on the basis of a storyboard.  I used this in class the following day and the Young Learners were really receptive and enthusiastic to use a game in class.

“Digital Play” – Book Review: The second blog post during October that I consider important is the book review of “Digital Play”.  This book I found pushing the boundaries of gaming in the language classroom and have personal experiences of this in South Korea by playing on my son’s Nintendo in Korea or visiting a Korean PC Café.  It was so nice to receive a copy of this book and write one of the first online book reviews.

Zeitgeist 2011: A Lesson Plan: My final blog post for this challenge has to be the Zeitgeist 2011 YouTube videos that I decided to use as a basis for a lesson plan.  It received some interest from my PLN and appeared to prompt a conversation-driven, materials-light approach to teaching.  I used this lesson with my private language learners and although they are teenagers, they were incredibly motivated and keen to share about their experiences during 2011.  It seems fitting to have this lesson included as a final of my eleven best blog posts.

Naturally, there are many blog posts that I would like to include in this list but the above the best eleven posts during 2011.  Nevertheless, I look forward to 2012 and am wondering what the next year will bring in terms of achievements but you can rest assured that I will be sharing my experiences, thoughts, lesson plans and book reviews in the future.  The biggest event in my diary for 2012 is my IATEFL Talk on Dogme ELT in the Classroom on March 23, so I look forward to seeing you all in Glasgow in a few months time.  Finally, I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

Zeitgeist 2011: Lesson Plan

2011 Light Writing, Daily Dose (c) 2011

As 2011 draws to an end, it is a time of reflection, consideration and possibility for the future.  This lesson plan is aimed at B2-C1 level students and may work with selected teenagers, but it may be more successful with adult learners.  Possible language which may emerge could be associated with reflection and talking about the past (There was a Tsunami in Japan, There were the Arab Springs during 2011, etc) as well as talking about what the  future might bring (In 2012, I would like to …, In the next 3 months, I want to …, etc).

As with all material, it is suggested to be sensitive to the learner’s background and choose examples to scaffold that are appropriate: perhaps the talking of natural disasters might not suit Japanese learners.  However, learners may have a story to tell and I suppose you are the teacher that knows your learner better than anyone and can make the choices that are suitable and appropriate for your learners.

Context & Introduction to Topic

  1. When starting the class ask students:
    • what they have achieved during 2011
    • what is their most memorable event during the year
    • what was the most surprising element of 2011
    • learner or teacher resolutions for 2012
  2. Monitor language for correct tense usage, monitor language as well as boarding and scaffolding emergent language
Zeitgeist 2011 YouTube Video
  1. Tell learners that they are going to be watching a video but put learners in pairs or small groups
  2. Describe to each pair or group of learners that before they watch the video, they need to work together and think of five important events that happened in 2011
  3. Elicit possible important events during 2011 from the learners and write their suggestions on the whiteboard
  4. Tell learners that they are going to watch a video that is related to 2011.  The learners need to watch the video and check to see if any of their suggestions are in the video.
  5. Play the video.
  6. Once the video has been played, ask learners to mention what events that were suggested (and transcribed on the whiteboard) are in the video.
  7. Elicit any other important events from 2011 the learners and add these to the whiteboard (if the learners can remember some of the other important events in the video).
  8. Play the video for a second time.
Discussion Time
  1. Once several events from 2011 have been written on the board, tell students that they are going to be working in groups and have to re-order the events in importance (one being the most important and the last one being least important).  All learners within the group must accept the order of importance.
  2. Monitor learners for suitable or potential language that could be used to scaffold (I think … is the most important, Why do you think …?, What do you think?, etc).
  3. After learners have completed the re-ordering activity, get several groups together and to compare results with the potential to debate.
  4. Allow sometime once the debate/discussion has finished for feedback and error correction.
As ever, any feedback on this lesson plan would be greatly appreciated.

Classroom Activities to Prompt Authentic Interaction

I remember when I first started teaching in South Korea, I was handed the course book and quickly thrown in a classroom full of young children.  My heart was pounding and my head was spinning.  It was only a few days previously that I flew into the country with my family and I was still trying to find my place in this wonderful country.  Nevertheless, after a number of months I gained confidence and tried to read more about teaching from various websites to give me more ideas.  However, I quickly found that to prompt authentic interaction and conversation between the learners or the learners and myself was increasingly difficult.  I decided to use various articles that would interest the young learners but found that the 50 minute class was too short to take advantage of this.  In the end, I started using games and activities to relax and prompt authentic interaction in the classroom.  I suppose at the time, I was unaware of a Dogme ELT movement and was trying to keep teach myself at the same time.  On a side note, for budding teachers wanting to experience a different culture and get a job, English language teachers are employed in Korea with the only requirements for applicants to have a degree in any subject and an interest in the culture/language.  I suppose I am, what is now referred to, as a backpacker EFL teacher.

Anyhow, I suppose the greatest challenge for any language teacher is to get learners to converse and interact in the target language.  As I have a keen interest in authentic conversation and autonomy in the classroom, I got “Teaching Unplugged” in 2010 and this provided the basis of developing activities to prompt authentic and Dogme-esque moments in the classroom.  The lesson ideas require very little preparation, limited materials and the focus is on getting the students conversing in the hope that there is emergent language that can be scaffolded.  I have relied upon these activities with various classes and the learners have always been receptive.  Some of the activities have been customised from “Teaching Unplugged” and give credit to such a wonderful and inspirational book.

Dogme ELT – Lesson Ideas(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

I hope you get the opportunity to incorporate some of the lesson ideas in your classroom.

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.

“English Grammar Today: An A-Z of Spoken and Written Grammar”: Book Review

It was a pleasure to receive a copy of “English Grammar Today”, which is written by Carter, McCarthy, Mark and O’Keefe, and was keen to put it to good use.  I have found that this grammar resource book really useful with mainly adult language learners and there are some great material in the workbook which complements coursebooks.  Anyhow, my most recent book review was published in the IATEFL Voices magazine and really appreciate everyone that helped.  It has really made my birthday receiving IATEFL Voices through the post.

“Digital Play”: Book Review

It was a wonderful feeling to finally have “Digital Play” (DELTA Publishing), land on my doormat and I was keen to start reading the book.  The book is co-authored by Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley and interestingly Graham has a “Digital Play” blog which contains a wide source of teaching ideas and posts dedicated to digital learning in English language teaching.  Meanwhile Kyle has created a Wikispace dedicated to teaching pedagogy and the incorporation of popular online and console gaming and it has been awarded an Edublog Award.

Nevertheless, “Digital Play” is predictably split into three sections each called Part A, Part B and Part C.  As with other books in the DELTA Teacher Development Series, Part A provides some background knowledge to technology and gaming with language learning, Part B offers a range of activities and lessons to incorporate digital play within the classroom and finally Part C suggests areas of reflection and consideration for schools and educators to consider syllabus design and the inclusion of digital play in language classrooms.

Part A
The key concept behind the inclusion of digital games and language learning is not necessarily new but there are some terms, such as ‘edutainment’, which “cause some educators to shudder” (Mawer & Stanley 2011, p.7) and have some negativity associated with them.  When I was teaching in South Korea, edutainment was offered to many language learners and it was considered by many students to be more beneficial than the traditional language classroom.  However, many teachers based in Korea negatively viewed edutainment and that the teacher was considered to be more of an entertainer than a teacher.  Nevertheless, if language lessons are considered by the learner to be entertaining, it would be plausible to suggest that the learner’s affective filter is reduced and the lesson (or the key purpose) is more memorable.  The authors also suggest that many learners’ lives are dominated by computer games, the internet and game consoles with “much of [the learners’] … talking about them with friends” (p.7).  Furthermore, the authors consider, within Part A, the appropriateness of computer games and society with various issues such as violence and stereotypes.  The interesting response to violence within computer games, among many, view “the relationship between violent computer games and aggressive behaviour” (p.8) as clear.  More recently, a scientific study attempted to link computer games to changes within childrens’ brains that causes detrimental effects (Telegraph 2011).  However, there is an awareness that some games, particularly those that have an educational benefit, which assists children or language learners such as “treating post-traumatic stress disorder, boosting intelligence and developing the memory” (Telegraph 2011).  Mawer & Stanley (2011) highlight the educational benefits of computer games and digital play within the language classroom and suggest that many schools have been slow to respond to advances within technology: “pupils sitting in rows with textbooks” (p.9).  This is also supported by Sir Ken Robinson talking about changing the paradigms of education:

Much of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about the disadvantages of the 19th century structure of education is also expressed within Part A of the book and it is wonderful to see Mawer & Stanley (2011) consider changing the traditional language classroom to the benefits of their learners.  Nevertheless, towards the end of the first section of the book, Mawer & Stanley (2011) provide a glossary as well as a guide to digital play, pages 21 to 32, in the language classroom, which is invaluable for those new to incorporating games in their lessons.

Part B
The following section of the book offers various ideas and activities for the reader to consider when deciding on using digital play within the language classroom.  The authors provide activities for the connected as well as the non-connected classroom, with four chapters within this part of the book and over 90 lesson suggestions for activities.  Personally, I found the book a great source of inspiration and I decided to prepare my own lesson with the use of an iPad, iPod or iPhone based game within my personal classroom.  When combining the book with Stanley’s blog of Digital Play, there are over 100 teaching activities and ideas to consider.  It is such a wealth of information, possibly too much for the new teacher, but well worth the investment to read and consider for future lessons.  One of my favourite lessons available on Stanley’s blog was related to gaming soundtracks and can really prompt students to converse in a subject that is of immediate interest to them.

Part C
The final section of the book provides some further information to consider and reflect upon, such as classroom management (setting up the classroom, classroom layout, etc) for using digital play with learners.  Other areas of this section include pedagogy and references to further reading, which also complements the first section of the book.

Finally, “Digital Play” has become one of my most popular books to refer to when planning or reflecting on the use of technology in my own classroom and I would recommend any experienced, or non-experienced, teacher to consider purchasing it in the future.  It is a great book that complements other DELTA Teacher Development Series such as “Teaching Online” or “Teaching Unplugged” and is a wonderful resource for any budding technophiles.

iPad Game “Jetpack Joyride”: Lesson Plan

I recently received a copy of “Digital Play” (a book review will be available in the near future), which is written by Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley, and was inspired by this book to prepare an EFL lesson which incorporated an iPad/iPhone Game.  The game that I decided to focus on is called “Jetpack Joyride“, created by Halfbrick (the company behind many popular iPad/iPhone games such as Fruit Ninja), and is an addictive yet simple game which involves the use of flying through a level.  It is controlled by simply pressing the iPad or iPhone with your finger and is incredibly intuitive.  All material required for this lesson is detailed below.  The only preparation required for this lesson is printing out the material below and cutting up the Story Board Images for distribution for each group of students.  There is a video that is required for the lesson and it is accessible via YouTube and is also available to view below.

Jetpack Joyride Lesson Plan(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Jetpack Joyride – Story Board Images(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Image Story Board Template(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Jetpack Joyride – Rules(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Please feel free to let me know what you thought of the lesson and also provide feedback if you managed to incorporate this within your class.  I understand that not everyone will have access to an iPad or iPhone but for those that have this game on their smartphone or tablet, it may offer possible ideas to incorporate games within the EFL classroom.  A Wordle for the lesson is provided below and you could incorporate it in the lesson (perhaps as a context creator or to prompt students to write the rules/objectives of the game).

Jetpack Joyride Wordle(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Nevertheless, have you used digital games within your classroom?  Can you see the future of tablet games within the EFL classroom or is this sort of activity basically a repackaged form of edutainment?  I am keen to hear opinions from other teachers about whether we should be getting learners to play games for language learning or focusing on the basics of language learning.  That being said, I will be using this lesson with a group of Columbian teenage learners and will provide feedback very soon.

Learning One-to-One

It was a pleasure to receive a copy of “Learning One-to-One” (2010) written by Ingrid Wisniewska and is published by Cambridge University Press.  As with many of the other Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers, this book offers many wonderful ideas for teaching one-to-one based lessons.  I would recommend any newly qualified or veteran teacher to purchase this book as it provides a new perspective on one-to-one lessons.  Furthermore, I was offered the opportunity to write this book review for the first Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research and was provided some invaluable advice from Darren Elliott (who also has a really insightful blog) during the review writing process.  Nevertheless, I would recommend this book for its simplicity and valuable ideas it provides for any teachers.  My full book review is available to read below.

Gordon Watts: BELTE 2011 Interview

Gordon Watts is the Director of English Teaching & Training at Bellerbys College Brighton and is located by the Brighton Train Station.  Gordon was kind enough to participate with an interview about the BELTE 2011, which is being held on 15 October 2011 between 9:15am and 6:00pm.  Further information about the BELTE 2011 is available here.  There are some great talks for the day and it looks a really fascinating event.  Anyhow, the interview with Gordon about the BELTE is below:

Question One: Tell me about yourself as well as your involvement with the BELTE.

After being in retailing and manufacturing, I got bored and retrained to be an EFL teacher in the early nineties.  I worked mainly in the field of Business English in the UK, France and Austria. I have been working at Bellerbys College for about 15 years and have been instrumental in developing training and the English content of our Foundation course.

I have also opened a school in Kazakhstan for one of our agents and been Marketing in China. Furthermore, I am a long established IELTS examiner within Brighton, Eastbourne, Portsmouth, Southampton, Guildford and Middlesex Uni as well as Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Beijing.  I also examine Skills for Life and Cambridge Upper Main Suite.  I have a CELTA; DipTEFL and MATESOL. 

Question Two: What is the history of the BELTE?

After Bellerbys and EmbassyCES English departments were merged in our new building, I was running training for all staff.  Staff were paid to attend training on Friday afternoons, so it seemed sensible to ask publishers to provide some training.  We had a variety of speakers (Hugh Dellar, Michael Swan and Catherine Walter, Peter Moor, Paul Seligson, Adrian Underhill, etc.) at some of our sessions and I wondered if this idea could be pushed further. I came up with a proposal which senior management agreed to; the idea was to see the outcomes of the first BELTE from a variety of angles (business; marketing; EFL and local community relations, etc.).

The event has no budget and is self-funding with any profits paid into the Building Futures charity which builds schools in developing and disaster struck countries.  I also proposed a meeting of Sussex DoSA that by supplying the labour on the day and co-producing the event, the profile of the Association would be raised and hopefully attract new members. The first BELTE was held in 2009 and was adjudged by the 320+ attendees as being a success.  The main ‘name’ speakers were Michael Swan, Peter Viney, Adrian Underhill, Sam McCarter, Sue Kay, Pete Sharma, Jane Allemano and Luke Meddings: an all-star cast focussing on skills and technology.

Studygroup then agreed to continue their support (media promotion, promotional material design and print and use of building) and agreement to run the event indefinitely was reached. The next BELTE was improved by the introduction of a Q/A panel, rather like Gardeners Question Time, delegate bags with freebies and SDoSA t-shirts. The focus this time was on exam skills in EFL, EAP and ESOL which resulted in many visitors from the state and support sector of the language field. Several of the original ‘names’ agreed to re-visit and Sue O’Connell, Mary Spratt and other writers and behind the scenes speakers were recruited. 

Question Three: What makes the BELTE unique and different compared to other EFL related conferences?

The main difference is that it is FREE, there is no pre-booking; the atmosphere is very ‘Brighton’ and the format is based on a comfort zone with no pressure.  For example, the speakers are there for the teachers, not necessarily to promote a book/website (the exhibitors on the stands are available to do that).  As mentioned, the event is for teachers primarily, not managers, DoS or owners.  It is a mad day that people may find exhausting but exhilarating.

Question Four: Tell me more about the BELTE 2011.

The best thing for me to do here is mention the two websites www.eflinsussex.co.uk and www.studygroup.com/BELTE and point out that exam preparation and CPD are the main thrusts this year.  Four new exhibitors have signed up at the last minute and for the first time local teachers are presenting.  For the first time we area blogging and tweeting (courtesy of Martin Sketchley and Russell Stannard).

Question Five: In what capacity is Sussex Director of Studies Association involved with the BELTE?

The Sussex DoSA, as mentioned before, is co-promoter, source of labour for the show and provides emotional support when planning gets a bit hectic.  I do the entire organisation myself and deal with exhibitors, promotional materials, etc (so this does happen!) and a generator of interest in member schools, via personal contacts etc. The membership has increased recently to 22 schools so there must be some force at work!

Question Six: How can the BELTE benefit EFL teachers?

Receiving free training from experts and well known writers, being able to see all principal materials publishers all under one roof, being entertained and educated free of charge, making new/renewing contacts, exchanging ideas and experiences are all essential to the modern ELT teacher in all fields. Next year, we will be looking for more input from our own teachers to work alongside or even in competition with the big guns.

Question Seven: What is the future of the BELTE?

Already we have been oversubscribed by speakers; there will be a series of midweek evening training sessions, mostly during the Spring, promoted by SDoSA as well as Member Schools.  The first training sessions will be at Studygroup but this will not always be the case.  Publishers will provide speakers and promotion, schools provide venues and refreshments, promotion to Member Schools and are advertised as co-promoters with the publisher on direct email shots etc.  We are probably going to call these sessions SussexmELTs (mid-week evening English Language Training Sessions).  I imagine that next year may the event expand with maybe a BELTE day and an e-BELTE day; as more schools are investing in technology, the direction will be in this direction but with a focus on the real event on the ground.

Dogme for Elementary Japanese Learners

Although the past few months have enveloped me in reading, research and writing for my Dogme Dissertation, I have found enough time to teach for two weeks part-time.  I have been teaching at a local university and was kindly asked to teach Japanese learners.  They arrived last week and I didn’t know what to expect.  However, since I had spent the past few months reading and writing about Dogme ELT, I really wanted to put this into practice with the class.  The first day was spent relaxing the students and providing an environment whereby we could all get to know each other.

Nevertheless, I was provided with Macmillan’s “Move” which is a wonderful coursebook with some great ideas and tries to link the CEFR with learning objectives.  However, I feel the coursebook falls short with some of the selected topics.  For example, there are hardly any topics about food, sports or education (albeit sparingly).  As I had never used this coursebook before, I thought I would give it a go.  I prepared a lot of material to be used on the SMARTBoard in my classroom with reading, images, etc but I started to think why I really had to go through the process of trying to improve a coursebook which was not really suitable for closed groups.  I must mention that I believe the coursebook is professionally written and has a lot of possibilities for classes but I noticed that for the Japanese young adults, it wasn’t that suitable.  Anyhow, I persevered through the first week with a combination of coursebook and complimentary material.

I know there was an ELT Chat about Dogme and whether this was possible with Beginners.  I hope the rest of this blog post provides an opportunity to suggest that Dogme is possible with Elementary and hopefully with Beginners if there is patience and perseverance.  The first Dogme related moment occurred during the third day when the class were describing their home-towns (a topic that was selected from the coursebook) and a Japanese student mentioned:

There is Army base in home-town but not there now.

I knew exactly what the student was trying to say and she tried her best to convey her message but she didn’t have the linguistic knowledge for accuracy.  So I stopped with the coursebook (and mostly the lesson plan) and I transcribed her utterance on to the IWB.  I tried to elicit and check if any other students were aware of the correct form with the above sentence.  There were a few students shaking their heads and a bit of silence, so I made the leap and thought that I would scaffold the language that had emerged in class.  I wrote the following statement on the board:

There used to be an Army base in my home-town.

I underlined the phrase ‘used to’ and drew a timeline to ensure that students were aware of the above statement.  Once the timeline had be drawn, I checked students’ understanding with the use of CCQs (Concept Checking Questions).  The next part of my Dogme-styled lesson was to drill students the structure and provide them with a couple of personal examples about myself: “I used to be in the RAF”, “I used to live in South Korea”.  I asked students to make a note of some personal examples and write them down.  Once these were written, I got the students to mingle and compare their sentences.  There was a lot of chatter in L1 but mostly L2 about some of the statements.  Once students settled a little bit, I decided to elicit any interesting facts that they had learnt about each other.  The whole lesson lasted about 45 minutes but it was a nice distraction for the students to learn something that had emerged from themselves at the beginning of class and was relevant.  I checked other coursebooks to establish when “used to” is normally taught and it is generally introduced for Pre-Intermediate or Intermediate learners.  I suppose emergent language and the teaching of language is not predictable.  It changes and develops from interaction among the other people in the classroom.

Finally, the first difficulty that I faced with these learners was trying to develop their conversational skills.  I have tried to work very hard to improve interaction with the use of continuation questions.  For example, a topic that the learners wanted to focus on today was related to sports.  The students were provided with an opportunity to practice speaking.  I was making a note of the emergent language that was suitable and language that needed scaffolding (I don’t want to be overly critical with the learners and demotivate them – so best to provide the best of both), writing language and phrases on the board.  I really did feel that the students made some great progress today and they felt more comfortable conversing in English with each other.  Interestingly, the second part of the lesson (which lasts for an hour and a half) focused on conversation and there was a lot of interaction between all the people in the class.  Before I knew it, the lesson was over.  I enjoyed the lesson so much that it flew by.

The whole experience of incorporating my research into the classroom has been a rewarding experience and I thank the learners in the class for being so flexible and open to the personal approaches and techniques that I decided to incorporate during lessons.  A final note to add, my dissertation will be submitted in the coming weeks.  I will be sharing some of the procedures and materials that were used during the research in due course.

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