|From left to right: Huan Japes, Bill Randell and Gordon Watts|
Last weekend, it was the BELTE (Brighton English Language Language Training Event) 2012 conference and has been the 3rd time that I have attended this training event. It was pretty easy getting the train to Brighton and I met some familiar faces from LTC Eastbourne at the train station. We all sat down on the train to compare the list of presenters and decide who we were going to see at the conference. This year, there had been a number of famous ELT professionals such as Luke Meddings, Hugh Dellar as well as Martin Parrott to name just a few. Having received the BELTE 2012 timetable early, thanks to Gordon Watts, I had already decided which talks that I was wishing to attend.
Anyhow, once I had arrived, I was given the usual goody-bag, free books supplied by Global ELT and had an opportunity to speak to the various publishers. The best thing about the annual BELTE is that it is free for all attendees and you can get a free book with the goody-bag. Nevertheless, once I had met some fellow ELT professionals and said hello to some friends to teachers and publishers, Gordon Watts formally opened the event with current Brighton Mayor (Bill Randell) and English UK Deputy Chief Executive Huan Japes. Brighton Mayor asserted that ELT was an estimated value of £100 million for Brighton, while Huan Japes discussed the complex issue of visa issuance and regulation for non-EU students wishing to attend language schools in the UK.
|Attendees choosing which talks to attend.|
After the formal opening of the BELTE, attendees were encouraged to write on boards which talks that they wanted to attend. Of course, with over 300 attendees to the small conference event, all the talks were very popular and good attendance for each talk. For a full list of the presenters for the BELTE, please view my previous blog post (This Year’s BELTE – 20 October 2012). I decided to attend Luke Meddings’ talk on Dogme ELT (due to a personal interest in the subject), Hugh Dellar’s talk on Translation in the Classroom (a subject that I haven’t really considered before) as well as Rachael Roberts’ talk on the IELTS Examination and the implications for fluency in the test.
10:30: ‘What Happens When We Unplug’ by Luke Meddings
The first talk which I attended at 10:30am was Luke Meddings’ focus on “What happens when we unplug?“: a talk focused on the implications of Dogme ELT inside and outside the classroom. A few weeks ago, I attended a talk at the British Council in Spring Gardens about “Found Objects” and was keen to learn Luke’s take on Dogme ELT compared to my dissertation on this subject. Anyhow, he started the talk by getting attendees to write down the first thing that they had mentioned, thought or said to another person and scribble this down on a piece of paper. These notes were handed back to Luke to refer to later in the talk.
|Luke Meddings during his talk at BELTE 2012|
He then proceeded to share his experience of initial teacher training during the equivalent of the CELTA 25 years ago and some feedback from the teacher trainers. He then started reflecting on the use of Teacher Talking Time (TTT), which struck a chord as I had blogged about this two weeks previously (How Appropriate is TTT in the Classroom?). Some of the thoughts and reflections that he mused over regarding TTT many years ago were similar to personal thoughts and ideas that I had, as Dogme ELT is associated with an interactionalist approach to language teaching. As Luke maintains: “Talking with the learners, rather than talking to the learners”. I suppose the reflections on TTT is more relevant towards the provision of instructions rather than a conversational approach to teaching. Nevertheless, the ‘conversational-driven‘ aspect of Dogme ELT is rather interesting (as this philosophy of teaching is not new when considering the amount of teachers proclaim that they already incorporate elements of Dogme ELT either knowingly or unknowingly) and Luke then decided to share of the ‘materials-light‘ tenet of teaching unplugged.
Luke decided to focus on the aspect of materials in the classroom and pointed out that with the amount of technology in the classroom, the amount of materials has actually increased in real-terms. For example, teachers and learners have access to coursebooks, CDs, DVDs, IWB materials, online forums, photocopiable materials, teacher manuals, supplementary learner books, dictionaries, digital apps, etc. When I started English teaching, we only had access to student coursebooks, teacher manuals and CDs. There appears to be a digital revolution occurring with English teaching resources. Many people thought that the advent of technology would make the learning experience more motivational and adaptable for the classroom. However, material has been piled on with teachers and learners expecting more bang for their buck.
Nearer the end of the talk, Luke reviewed the three key tenets of Dogme ELT (those being ‘conversation-driven‘, ‘materials-light‘ and a focus on ‘emergent language‘). The talk then considered the ‘test-teach-test’ of language learning and Luke suggested that Dogme ELT should be related and focused with an ‘assess-teach-assess’ element of language learning. It was highlighted that when teaching in an unplugged style, it is reactionary rather than prescriptive. Thus, you are always assessing teaching opportunities, assessing learner capability, making informed decisions on language learning then reassessing learner understanding, hence its relationship with the ‘assess-teach-assess’ philosophy.
The next part of the workshop, Luke used various prepositions (in/out, above/below, etc) for attendees to discuss the relationships with language learning with the person sitting next to them. There was some very interesting discussions with all attendees and Luke elicited some examples from those that were present. Finally, Luke picked up the pieces paper (which had been passed along at the start of the workshop) and he then read out some examples from the first thing a person said:
- “Do you want to go for a walk?”
- “I’ve knocked over some water! Towel, towel, towel!”
- “Oh my god!”
11:45: ‘Translation: Tackling the Taboo’ by Hugh Dellar
|Hugh Dellar starts his talk at the BELTE.|
|Practical applications of translation in the classroom.|
14:00: Q&A Session with BELTE Experts
The Q&A Session is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to ask their questions to the professionals during a very informal and lighthearted part of the BELTE. Some of the teachers asked questions related to the recession, ESOL and charity work, examining, translation as well as developments in technology applicable for the classroom. It was very insightful and for those BELTE attendees that asked questions were given a free book so I was dead keen to ask a question about translation (considering I had attended Hugh’s talk just before). Hugh Dellar was chairing the panel and some comments from the professionals were invaluable. One thing that I was interested to hear about was the role of charities with private language schools and how they could both benefit each other. As I work for a charity in a voluntary role, I am keen to see what opportunities there are for the charity and I would be keen to link English in the Community with local language schools.
15:30: ’11-14 Minutes of IELTS Speaking Hell?’ by Rachael Roberts
- Fluency is the “production of language in real time without undue pausing or hesitation” (Ellis and Barkhuizen 2005).
- “Fluency is not so much speaking fast as pausing less” (Thornbury 2005).
- Using phrase cards
- Maintaining pressure during the classroom
- Using a student as an observer
- Developing more awareness raising activities (which I would recommend teachers to read “Teaching Unplugged“)