I was fortunate enough (and lucky enough to pursuade the wife) to head over to Paris for the 29th TESOL France Colloquium. The 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.
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.