Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Category: teacher training (Page 2 of 3)

English UK Annual Teachers’ Conference: Handouts

This is a blog post for complementary material to accompany the talk given at the English UK Annual Teachers’ Conference in London on 9 November 2013.  I have included a PDF of my handout, a slideshow of my presentation as well as a YouTube tutorial about using Google Drive for online research in ELT.  I hope this is useful and thanks for either attending my talk or reviewing the material on this topic.

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[slideshare id=28051286&doc=onlineresearchenglishuk-131108142249-phpapp01]


English UK 2012: Annual Teachers’ Conference

The Shard reaching into the clouds.

On Saturday, I travelled up to London for the 2012 English UK Annual Teachers’ Conference and was fortunate to give a talk on my favourite subject … Dogme ELT.  I met up with a colleague, from my school, on the train but had to get up very early.  Around 5am to be honest.  Anyhow, we arrived at the venue on time for the registration and collected our badges.  At the venue (nearby Borough), we were greeted with juice, coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat as well as a range of other goodies and a good chance for a rather needed breakfast.

Before the first plenary, I was able to meet with some of the publishers and was able to say hello to a few familiar faces.  I had an hour so managed to sit down somewhere for a bite to eat, a coffee and a chance to catch prepare my final things for my talk.  I met Tom from English UK who helped show me the presentation equipment for my talk and I was able to go through my talk one last time.  Of course I had some butterflies in my stomach but wasn’t overly nervous and was looking forward to my talk.

Anyhow, the Opening Plenary was by none other than Jeremy Harmer (who I last met at Bucharest at an ELT talk).  He decided to go through the Opening Plenary with no overhead slides, no videos or any images – it was decidedly refreshing.  Jeremy developed six questions for his talk and provided the attendees the opportunity to offer their insight and experience.  Some of the questions focused on issues such as the use of IT, CLIL, as well as language testing.   After his talk, we were guided back into the main hall and was given the opportunity to collect some more coffee and biscuits before the key talks for the conference started.

The first talk I attended was by Josh Round about “Putting the C and P into CPD“.  He delivered a very interesting presentation through the use of Prezi.  Personally, I am keen to learn a bit more about cloud presentation software available on the internet and I have much to learn about Prezi.  Anyhow, Josh looked at activities available for teachers to continue CPD, the role CPD could play in future job prospects as well as developing an effective CPD programme in a language school.  There was also reference towards Twitter and role it has played in language teaching or the sharing of ideas or teaching experiences.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any talks during second session as I had my talk.  For those that missed my talk, I have attached a copy of my slides and eHandout below.

English UK 2012: Balancing Dogme ELT in the Classroom

English UK 2012: eHandout

The final talk that I attended was by Nick Robinson about the opportunities available for budding ELT Authors. He gave a first-hand account of being an author and the expectation for those that were keen to get in this field.  Nick was able to refer to his personal experience and the majority of attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions or share personal experiences.  During the talk, I was introduced to the Pomodero Technique for completing various tasks (something that I haven’t heard before and something that I will definitely include in future tasks when writing).

Nick talks about the act of using a cat as a writer.

Nearer the end, Nick echoed something that Josh mentioned during his talk earlier that any teachers that were keen to get noticed needed to demonstrate potential.  Nick mentioned that teachers needed to demonstrate potential through the use of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) with Twitter, blogging, the creation and sharing of material and some other areas.  When I was on the MA course at Sussex Uni, one of the students had co-authored a coursebook for Cambridge University Press.  She gave a talk about becoming an author and much of what she mentioned was echoed in Nick’s talk.  As in both talks (at English UK and at the University of Sussex), I found myself being referred to as a case-in-point (blogging, Twitter, etc) – get yourself noticed through your blog, market yourself and create a following.  It was great to meet Nick in person, having been following him on Twitter for quite a while.  I also hope to meet Nick at future conferences in the near future.

Chia starts the Closing Plenary.

That was the end of the Conference today and I was looking forward to attending Chia’s Closing Plenary.  I haven’t attended a talk or plenary held by Chia and was keen to see her in action (so to speak).  She started the talk by introducing herself and her ideas about language teaching.  She was incredibly energetic during the plenary and her presentation was visually engaging: videos, pictures, etc.

Chia covered all ELT theories in her talk (which was a first for any plenary or talk that I had attended) and the attendees had the opportunity to guess or predict theories that were presented.  Chia successfully incorporated some highly amusing videos with her talk to show the use of particular language theories and methods.  One of the most amusing videos that was shown during the talk is below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-4WbjV1Jmo]

Chia and Jeremy after the Q&A Session.

Finally, Jeremy and Chia finished off the conference with a Q&A Session.  Some of the attendees were offered to the opportunity to answer questions from the attendees, which they handled superbly.  There were various questions about CLIL, Dogme ELT, the focus between teaching methodology versus learning methodology (which I attempted to ask), as well as a range of other points.  There were some interesting debates developing but the Q&A Session finished and attendees were guided to the main hall for drinks and a good chin-wag.

I was able to meet other attendees over a few beers and ended up having a conversation with three other attendees about Dogme ELT and my proposed “Balanced Approach” which developed further for my talk.  It was a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and insights into language learning with other likeminded individuals and I would highly recommend other teachers to attend the English UK  Conference next year.

English UK 2012 Teachers’ Conference: Dogme ELT Talk

On 10 November 2012, there is the annual English UK 2012 Teachers’ Conference held in London which is held at Prospero House.  I will be holding a talk during the day at the Conference about Dogme ELT and is related to my IATEFL Talk in Glasgow earlier this year.  Further details regarding the venue (Prospero House) is located below.

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Obviously, there will also be others presenting during the Conference and with some big names in ELT such as Adrian Underhill, Rachael Roberts, Nik Peachey as well as many other names.  Jeremy Harmer will be involved with the Opening Plenary and the conference opens its doors from 9:15am with a Closing Plenary with Chia Suan Chong at 3:30pm.  The Conference Programme is available to view below:

Conference Programme 2012 Web

It will be wonderful to meet some familiar faces and I look forward to seeing some at my talk on the 10 November.

BELTE 2012 – Conference Summary

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!”
Luke gave some wonderful techniques to teach with the suggested sentences.  Some of this included drilling, analysis of grammar, L1/L2 translation, etc.  It was a wonderful example on how to incorporate a ‘materials-light‘ approach to teaching and one that I will try out with my learners in my next class.
As a final attempt to demonstrate the ease of technology in the classroom to develop interaction, elicitation and experimentation in the classroom, Luke brought out his iPhone with some pre-recorded material in particular places.  He played the audio (which consisted of some people chatting, some loud clanging, etc – which was actually the train station) and he got attendees to guess the place.  After some suggestions, one person got the right answer.  Luke mentioned that through the use of some very common tools with technology, you could create a rich and engaging lesson.  Obviously, the use of material flies in the face of a ‘materials-light‘ tenet of Dogme ELT, but this tenet is not ‘materials-free‘.

11:45: ‘Translation: Tackling the Taboo’ by Hugh Dellar

Hugh Dellar starts his talk at the BELTE.
The next workshop that I decided to attend was related to translation in the language classroom, an area of language teaching which is a rather under-respected topic mainly due to its pedagogical relationship with grammar translation methods of language education.  Historically, grammar translation was taught when children had to learn Latin, having to translate reams of text from Latin into English, learning the grammar forms as well as learning verb conjugations.  However, as my wife is a professional Korean translator and interpreter, I have a personal interest in translation methods of teaching in the language classroom and whether a place exists for translation/interpreting in the classroom.  There is a commonly error between the difference between translation and interpreting.  Translation is the conversion of text between one language to another, while interpreting is the conversion of speech between one language to another.
Dellar arrived after a brief panic (his underground train was delayed and he spent a number of hours trying to travel to Victoria Station then to Brighton), but he was not late for his talk.  He rushed in, got things organised and started his talk.  He obviously didn’t refer to the difference between translation and interpreting (perhaps something that he could focus on in a future talk) but his talk was aimed for translation in the classroom and he initially looked at why translation was considered a taboo in the classroom.  He encouraged attendees to discuss this amongst themselves and whether they have ever used translation in the classroom.  There was much debate about the use of it in the classroom and whether L1 should actually be included within the lesson if the aim of the lesson is L1.
Practical applications of translation in the classroom.
After some discussion and pointers by Hugh, he suggested some wonderful classroom ideas to incorporate translation in the classroom.  These included writing up a script of L1 to L1 interaction between learners and getting learners to translate this, providing students with the materials to translate which they may encounter in their work as well as raising the awareness of differences between language and culture by getting learners to translate from English to their language then, after a while, back into English (usually called back-to-back translation and a tool used by professional translators to assess quality of translation projects and something that my wife is forever doing).  However, the teacher will have to have some knowledge of the learner’s L1 if they are expected to incorporate some ideas for the classroom but is a wonderful opportunity for learners to teach their teacher about their own language/culture.  The workshop appeared to pass by so quick and it was already time for lunch and the Q&A Session.

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

The last session that I attended was Rachael Roberts’ session on the speaking element of the IELTS, possibly the most daunted part of the IELTS for students taking the test.  I have never really felt much interest in attending examination workshops before, as I like to gain new ideas for the classroom rather than attend a talk about examining which won’t offer me possible ideas for classroom techniques.  However, I was really glad to attend Rachael’s talk as she attempted to bridge both areas for those interested in the examination as well as those more interested in classroom ideas.
Rachael introduced the descriptors for IELTS assessment which included fluency being one of these descriptor which is assessed.  She used the term ‘fluency‘ to create a Wordle so that attendees could see the most common and least common terms used to describe ‘fluency‘.  After showing the image, Rachael got attendees to share their own ideas about the teaching and preparation for learners (particularly in relation to the speaking part of the examination) with the IELTS and to try to describe fluency in their own words.  The descriptors which are assessed during the speaking element of the IELTS includes the following:

  • Fluency and coherence (the main focus of the talk)
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
Some quotes that Rachael referred to during the talk to describe fluency included the following:
  • 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).
The next part of the workshop, Rachael offered suggestions on various lexical phrases for specific functions (making recommendations, justifying opinions, agreeing, etc) which is quite useful for those teachers preparing learners for the IELTS.  When you drill learners phrases for speaking, by using some of the suggestions that Jeremy Harmer mentioned during his drilling and repetition talk in Bucharest, it can be invaluable and more useful when teaching examination preparation classes.
After the introduction of the 11 useful set phrases appropriate for learners to acquire for the IELTS, Rachael then focused on awareness raising activities to improve fluency and accuracy in English.  This included a nod towards an old book known as “Function in English” by Blundell, Higgins and Middlemass (1982), which is now discontinued and is now due for a revival for current language teachers, for more creative aspects of language preparation classes.  In some respects, language awareness and the development of emergent language is loosely related to Dogme ELT and it is interesting to see how close this philosophy of language teaching is affecting examination preparation classes.
Rachael suggested that the key for improving fluency and language awareness was to promote autonomy in the classroom.  She suggested that particular activities could be included such as:
  • 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“)
It was a wonderful workshop and I was glad that I attended an examination-based talk.  As mentioned previously, this was my first exam-focused workshop that I attended and I would recommend other teachers to attend them in the future particularly for those that have an opportunity to attend Rachael’s talks.  She was able to incorporate some aspect of her latest IELTS Coursebook for the workshop but it played a minor role in the talk and it was very nice to meet a fellow educator that I follow on Twitter in person.

BELTE 2012: Conclusion

Overall, the BELTE Conference was probably one of the best organised so far.  There were some big names from the ELT profession and the Q&A Session was very useful.  The attendees to the conference were given the opportunity to receive some free books and the best thing about the conference is it is free of charge.  You can hob-nob with some EFL professionals and meet other like-minded individuals during the day.  However, the day of the conference conflicted with other big events such as the Language Show (which is held annually in London) and preferably I would love to attend both conferences.  Nevertheless, one cannot complain about the quality of the talks and presenters during the conference.  It is invaluable for all educators and you will have the chance to meet other teachers or publishers.

“Found Objects” by Luke Meddings: British Council Seminar

Found Objects” Luke Meddings

On Tuesday 18 September, I had the opportunity to travel up to London and attend Luke Meddings’ talk at the British Council, as part of the new Seminars between 2012 to 2013, at Spring Gardens.  Luke Meddings’ talk was titled “Found Objects” and the blurb on the British Council Seminars’ poster is in the image on the left.  Each attendee was greeted by a large brown sugar cube on their chair and prior to the start of the talk I mingled with other attendees and picked up some materials (posters and DVDs), journals and pamphlets.  At the first British Council Seminar for this academic year, I bumped into to some familiar faces such as Sandy, Mike, Phil, Ela and Sue to name just a few.

What’s a sugar cube sitting here for?

The seminar started with Luke Meddings getting attendees to guess why there was a large brown sugar cube on their chair and eliciting responses, as one would if they were in the classroom.  Some of the suggestions included collocations such as “like it or lump it”, “sugar lump” or a “spoon full of sugar”.  Some other ideas why the sugar cube was present on attendees’ seats included the purpose of a reservation, so we could feed a horse (if one were to attend the seminar), or memories about being fed a sugar lump.  Essentially, the seminar was about using objects to prompt authentic interaction and conversation and it gets the outside world into the classroom.  Meddings then decided to break down the acronyms of each letter from “Found Objects” to look at various activities or ideas to consider when bringing objects inside the classroom and he related this to the second key tenet of Dogme ELT, a focus on ‘materials-light‘.  One question that I was wondering was, is there a difference between materials and objects?


F is for Found:

Meddings shared that as teachers, we never seem to switch off from the classroom.  We are constantly thinking about what materials to incorporate in classes, how to teach particular groups and what activities we should focus on.  Meddings suggested that we should go about looking for objects which we could bring into the classroom when outside.  If we find something, we could take a photo of it and share the image with learners: “the more ideas that you can come up with, the more stimuli that we can collect”.  However, we should, as teachers, should constantly think of new and inventive ways to develop conversation and, as Meddings puts it, “bringing the class alive”.  He suggested that finding objects to bring into the classroom (or pictures of these objects) comes from searching or looking actively.

ELT Pics © 2012

O is for Objects:

Meddings then looked at Objects and what constituted an object and whether a digital image or artefact is suitable for bringing into the classroom.  He then progressed to showing an image of a photo trapped under a bin with the photo being a recycling plant.  It was quite surreal to have a picture of a bin and a photo stuck under the bin of a recycling plant.  This in itself prompted quite some chatter amongst the attendees and then Meddings proclaimed that “not everything can be imported into the classroom”.  This moved on to the using of unusual and not so common images of objects in the classroom.  Essentially, the using of pictures and photographs is not so new and ELT Pics are available for teachers to share and develop photographs for the classroom.  One final picture that Meddings showed to attendees was the image of poppies.  This moved on to the next point about using objects.

U is for Using:

He gave attendees a few minutes to share their ideas and thoughts about poppies.  Some of the suggestions for the classroom included: getting learners to develop the life cycle of the poppy, the use of poppy seeds as drugs as well as one idea which I suggested getting young learners to paint poppy seeds for Christmas decorations in the classroom.  Meddings highlighted that usual objects which are found around the house or outside could be used in the classroom to creative degree.

N is for Narrative:

Meddings demonstrating the creative use of cardboard.
Just as objects can prompt authentic interaction and conversation, these objects could also prompt some form of narrative.  Narrative tenses offer learners the opportunity to use most tenses and we can focus on areas linked with lesson aims.  Meddings showed a picture of a bunch of flowers stuck between a fence and again offered attendees a few minutes to discuss amongst themselves how these flowers got there as well as who left them and why.  The ambiguity of pictures offers some form of springboard for creativity: writing a story based upon the picture, discussing ideas about objects in photographs, getting learners to recreate a story from multiple pictures, etc.  None of these ideas are new but it was a nice reminder how the simple things developed in the classroom could prompt authentic conversation and interaction.
You know you want to spend, spend, spend.

D is for Direction:

As mentioned before, objects could be used as a springboard to develop conversation.  Obviously, for most teachers they are expected to use a coursebook but there is nothing wrong with using objects and pictures to bring the coursebook alive.  Meddings suggested using a pyramid discussion when incorporating objects in the classroom: it offers some resemblance of direction and relation to the coursebook but allows opportunity for teachers to develop the direction expected by learners.  Furthermore, Meddings suggested that objects that are brought in could motivate learners and prompt them to develop conversation.  The next image that Meddings showed was a picture of a gift card from TK Maxx and on the gift card, there was some interesting language related to consumerism and purchasing that thing you have always wanted.  For example, if there is a topic about shopping and consumerism in the coursebook, teachers could always bring in an object related to shopping (a gift card in this case) and use this during the lesson.  It was a wonderful example about creatively using a coursebook but also balancing more opportunities to explore emergent language.


The remaining part of the seminar focused on the second word: Objects and this again was broken down into acronyms.  However, to avoid repetition the acronyms have been dropped and a summary of the remaining seminar is below.
The British Council podium in Spring Gardens
One obvious advantage about getting learners, as well as yourself, to bring in personal possessions into class offers ownership to objects.  Learners are able to relate to objects and share their stories about them.  For example, this week I was teaching a group of 4 learners and I got them all to bring in a personal possession that is important to them.  One Spanish learner brought in a guitar pluck and a music concert pamphlet.  He then told the rest of us how important it was to him.  He was given a guitar pluck whilst he was playing his bass guitar during the concert on the pamphlet by a fellow musician and the guitar pluck had the name of a famous band in Spain.  It was a very interesting story and the rest of the class learnt more about this learner.  Essentially, as Meddings suggested, the personalisation in the classroom provide learners to own the language as well as just the object.  Meddings then returned back to the use of images in the classroom.  He showed a picture of a wonderful building, some lovely trees, etc and then he got attendees to consider what was right behind of the photographer.  Some of the suggestions were lovely and again this linked to the previous areas highlighted during the seminar.  In the end, Meddings showed the actual scene and it was unexpected: it was a picture of a building being rebuilt with cement mixes, builders, etc.  Obviously, this generated a lot of chatter amongst the attendees.  Again, this is a similar activity that I have seen mentioned in various books about the use of images as well as with ELT Pics and it was a wonderful reminder about the simplicity of images and using various images juxtaposed to reconstruct a scene, story, etc.  The remaining areas of the seminar looked at the use of objects by getting learners to express themselves using images creatively.  This was obviously repeated before but was an important area to consider.  Meddings demonstrated this by a story about his daughter using some cardboard packaging to recreate a scene: being used as an accordion, a skirt or a punchbag.  Again, Meddings suggested that we should share with other teachers the materials and objects that we use during lessons.  We could find some wonderful objects that could be used in the class by the sharing of materials with our fellow teachers.  Meddings suggested taking some of the objects from teachers and trying it out in our own lessons and then as a post reflection, share our experiences with other teachers that have also used the objects in the classroom.  Finally, Meddings recommended that teachers should use objects that prompt conversation and natural talking in the classroom and it doesn’t need to be fully loaded with various tasks.  Essentially, a ‘less-is-more’ approach to teaching could improve learner-to-learner, as well as learner-to-teacher or vice versa, interaction and as a quote from Meddings, he recommended that “you don’t find something no where but you find it somewhere”.
Martin Sketchley (left) and Luke Meddings (right)
This week, I have brought in an object to class for my adult conversation class.   There are some wonderful ideas that Meddings recommended during the seminar and I look forward to watching it again on the Teaching English website.  I would recommend other teachers to try out some of the ideas that Meddings recommends to develop their own understanding of Dogme ELT.  Again, as I have always recommended, it is always best to follow a balanced approach to teaching: balancing between more eclectic and humanistic forms of teaching as well as more structured forms.  The use of objects and images does offer teachers the opportunity to develop a ‘tool-box’ so that Dogme ELT can be developed in the classroom.
I am looking forward to seeing Luke Meddings at the BELTE Conference on 20 October 2012 where he is focusing more on Dogme ELT.

The video of the British Council Seminars is available now to watch below:

You can also read up on the Teaching English website about the seminar also.

This Year’s BELTE – 20 October 2012

Study Group © 2012

Study Group are re-organising the BELTE (Brighton English Language Training Event) for 20 October 2012 with some very well known guests and speakers such as Luke Meddings, Hugh Dellar, as well as Martin Parrott to name just a few.  This training event, which is entirely free for attendees, takes place the entire day between 10am and 5:30pm.  It is a wonderful opportunity for teachers wishing to attend workshops and talks provided very experienced teacher trainers or well respected individuals in the ELT profession.  All participants will receive a certificate of attendance to include in their professional portfolio.  Last year, certificates were either emailed or posted.

I have attended the previous two conferences (2010 and 2011) and each time I was incredibly surprised by the number of teachers attending as well as those big names in ELT giving talks.  I am looking forward to attending another talk on Dogme ELT by Luke Meddings and I am unsure whether to attend a talk by Hugh Dellar or Martin Parrott.  Nonetheless, the conference schedule is available online and is quoted below.


‘Producing and Using Authentic Listening Materials’Ian Badger [Harper Collins]Ian travels widely as a consultant and trainer for international companies helping to improve the effectiveness of their communications. He spends a lot of his time running face-to-face training in Finland, France, Germany and Russia. A previous director of studies and a teacher trainer who regularly presents at international conferences, he has authored: ‘English for Business: Listening’ (ELTons 2012 nominee) and ‘English for Life: Listening’ [Harper Collins] co-authored ‘English for Business Life’ (Heinle/Cengage) and ‘Everyday Business English’ and ‘Everyday Business Writing’ (Pearson).
An interactive session in which we will explore ways of producing and then using authentic listening materials for our learners to help them cope with the challenges they meet in their everyday life, studies and work. We will compare these ‘tailored’ materials with published listening materials and discuss our experiences of working with authentic and also ‘scripted’ material including unfamiliar accents, grammatically ‘incorrect’ and not conforming to standard patterns of usage learned. 

‘What Happens When we Unplug?’Luke Meddings [Delta Publishing]Luke was a co-founder of the dogme in ELT movement with Scott Thornbury. Their book, Teaching Unplugged, [Delta] 2009 and won a British Council ELTon award for Innovation in 2010. In 2011 he co-founded the round, an independent e-publishing collective, with Lindsay Clandfield. Their first book, 52: a year of subversive activity for the ELT classroom was published in 2012.
Unplugged teaching focuses less on a ‘top-down’ approach to teaching based on published materials, and more on working bottom-up from the lives and language of the people in the room. This interactive session uses hands-on activities, role play and classroom feedback to explore the theory and practice of Dogme ELT. 

‘The Power of the Image’Paul Dummett [Cengage Learning]Paul is a teacher/writer based in Oxford whose early career includes being DoS and course designer at Godmer House School. His interest in Business English led him to focus on task-based teaching and ESP. He delivers courses to professionals and has authored skills, business and General English titles, including Life [Cengage Learning].
We live in an age where images play an increasingly important part in everyday communication. This talk explores the relation of image to other forms of communication and explores ways in which we can use photographs in class-based teaching. Many of the examples are taken from National Geographic content and photographs from Life. 

‘3Fs-Foster Fluency Faster’Paul Seligson [Richmond ELT]Paul has been ‘TEFLing’ worldwide for over 30 years and is well-known for lively, highly practical training. A CELTA assessor, publications include English File [OUP], and from Richmond ELT, Helping Students to Speak, Kid’s Web 1-5 and Essential English 1-5; a shorter new course for young adults. He works freelance from Brazil.
Highly practical, focusing on ‘teachering’ [well-established teacher tactics which look pedagogically good but are often dinosaurian, limiting and hindering fluency especially at lower levels] this lively talk offers simple pragmatic alternatives including defining fluency, strategies, eliciting, L1 use, ‘syllabus reduction’ to make space for fluency, recording vocabulary, reading aloud, transcript analysis, correction and a 30-point check list. 

‘Inspired Courses with Online Resources’Peter Newman [Macmillan English Campus]Peter, a member of the Macmillan English Campus team, spent a number of years as an ELT teacher in France and Spain before going to work in the lifelong learning unit of the European Commission.
Online resources are all well and good, but can they tie in with what you actually teach in class-and with minimal effort? This session will look at options for combining online resources for both learners and teachers to give your classes an edge, inspire your students and make your life easier. 

‘EAP Grammar: Moving the Focus from Tense to Syntax’Terry Phillips [Garnet Education]Terry has been in ELT for more than 30 years as a school owner, manager and consultant, training teachers and management in more than 20 countries. A well-respected speaker on the ELT circuit, he has published, with his wife, more than 150 books including University Skills in English, Progressive Skills and The i-test [Garnet].
Tense choice is a key area of complexity in everyday language use in English. But EAP teaching requires changing the main focus onto syntactic structures such as the complex noun phrase. This session will show how teachers can both use existing skills and develop new skills to teach EAP grammar effectively. 


‘The Challenge of Chunks’Frances Eales [Pearson]*Frances is a teacher and DELTA trainer who has taught in the UK and many other countries. She was a writer on the Cutting Edge series and has recently written three levels of Speakout, a course developed in conjunction with the BBC. She has a particular interest in developing speaking and listening skills, in task-based learning and the use of authentic video in class. She currently lives and works near Brighton.
As teachers, we are generally confident about teaching individual words and probably also two-word collocations. But what about longer fixed and semi-fixed phrases of the kind that are highlighted in course books as ‘useful language’ or ‘key phrases’ or ‘functional phrases’? We know that such phrases can make a huge difference to learners’ fluency in speaking but how do we encourage learners to use them appropriately and accurately? This workshop adopts a ‘back to basics’ approach to offer some enjoyable, practical ideas for focusing on phrases. 

‘Translation: Tackling the Taboo’Hugh Dellar [Cengage Learning]*Hugh is a teacher at the University of Westminster and has been teaching since 1993, mainly in London but for three years in Indonesia. He gives TT and development talks globally. He is co-author of the Innovations series and co-wrote the recent Outcomes series [Cengage]
For too long, translation has been taboo in many classrooms. This blanket ban stems from both native speaker dominance and a failure to appreciate the many benefits translation can offer, resulting in a de-skilling of teachers-particularly non-natives. In this taboo-busting talk, I will explore the uses [and of course, abuses] of L1 use in class. 

‘Getting the Most out of Mental Imagery in the EFL Classroom’Jack Scholes [Helbling Languages]*Jack has a first degree in German and Russian, a PGC in Education and EFL, and is also a Licensed Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, having studied under Dr. Richard Bandler, the co-inventor of NLP.
With over 40 years’ experience in ELT, around the world including in England, Germany, Nepal, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, He is now a freelance trainer, ELT specialist, and author of 12 books including The Coconut Sellers in the Helbling Readers Series.
Mental imagery is one of the most powerful, effective and necessary tools for teachers. This talk will explore new ways to enliven and enrich your classroom with motivating activities using mental imagery that help your students learn more effectively, enhance their motivation and strengthen self-concept.   

‘Top Tips for Success with IELTS Teaching and Learning’ Louisa Dunne [IELTS]Working for the British Council in France, Louisa provides academic support and advice to English teachers in HE and secondary institutions who are preparing learners for a variety of tests. She has had many years’ experience teaching all ages and levels in a variety of educational contexts. Also a Cambridge examiner, she has worked for the BC in various locations [e.g. Egypt, Nepal, Japan and Portugal before France].
Discussing their own experiences of preparing students for IELTS, participants will look at common pitfalls for candidates taking language tests and how these could be avoided. We will also consider the possible challenges faced when preparing students for IELTS; Louisa offers some useful tips and presents some online resources for IELTS. 

‘Grammar, Correctness and Language Evolution: What not to Teach’Martin Parrott [CUP]*Martin began teaching English in mainstream comprehensives and at the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle in London after many years working in ELT [International House, BBC, Universities of London and Bristol]. Now freelance, he maintains an interest in grammar, teacher education and educational management. Grammar for English Language Teachers [CUP] win the Duke of Edinburgh English Speaking Union prize 2000; the second edition was released in 2010.
What is ‘Standard English’? How is English changing? This talk looks at what should or should not be included in classroom materials and in reference materials for learners and teachers. You will be invited to study and comment on examples of language use and I will be honest about decisions I have made. 

13.00 Lunch break: snacks available 

14.00 BELTE EXPERTS: Q/A panel in Main Hall
Hugh Dellar chairs a panel of Terry Philips, Martin Parrott, Jack Scholes, Frances Eales and Rachael Roberts answering your ELT questions in a knowledgeable, but entertaining way. 


‘Stifling the Grammar Yawn’Diana Hall and Mark Foley [Pearson Education]Diane has been working in ELT for over 25 years as teacher, trainer, writer, editor and publisher. With an MA in Applied Linguistics, she is currently an Associate Lecturer at the Open University.
Mark has also been in ELT for a similar period, teaching, training examining and materials writing in the UK and Spain. They have co-authored MyGrammarLab and New Total English plus many other titles for Pearson.
Why do many students find grammar boring? In this workshop, we will look at making grammar-learning more interesting, challenging and effective, using examples from MyGrammarLab which combines book-based and on-line materials. Additionally, we will look at how new technology can help keep track of student progress. 

‘Spelling Myths and Enchantments’Johanna Stirling [The Spelling Blog]Johanna is a freelance ELT consultant who works as a teacher/trainer at Norwich Institute of Language Education [NILE] and authors, edits and presents for CUP. Having recently written Teaching Spelling to English Learners she runs the Spelling Blog and may be addressed as ‘The Spelling Queen’.
Get ready to challenge some myths about English spelling and the way we teach it. Open your mind to new skills and arts that can transform weak spellers of all ages into better spellers. Watch boring mechanical practice go up in puffs of smoke as new and enchanting techniques and activities appear before our eyes. Motivating magic that all teachers can perform! 

‘How can Assessment Support Learning? A Learner Oriented Approach’Lee Knapp [Cambridge esol]Lee, a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, is Development Manager UK for Cambridge esol exams. With an MA in Applied Linguistics, he has been involved in ELT since the early ’70s: teaching in the German state sector, management training and consultancy in the Gulf and, in the UK, organisational development roles in FE, the private language-school and financial services sectors. He is the co-author of Write for Business [Longman].
This talk summarises and locates Learning Oriented Assessment [LOA] within the assessment landscape. LOA brings together notions of summative and formative assessment with learning located at the heart of the process. We will explore how assessment data can be used to profile and monitor learner progress, inform teacher decision-making and enable learners to engage in focused self-study. 

‘Language, Motivation and Opportunity’Martyn Clarke [OUP]Martyn has taught English at all levels for over twenty years in more than fifteen countries, from one-to-one to classes of eighty. He has written course books, designed teacher development programmes, run webinars and is fascinated by the way people learn: academically, professionally and personally and how they can be supported at individual, local and systemic levels.
Communicative language teaching needs to be precisely that-communicative. But, encouraging learners to speak can be a challenge. This practical session explores the elements of language support, motivation and opportunity and their impact on creating an environment in which learners feel comfortable speaking. We will be analysing a variety of activities both teacher-produced and published [OUP English File 3rd edition]. 

’12-14 Minutes of IELTS Speaking hell?’Rachael Roberts [Macmillan Education]Rachael now spends most of her time writing, most recently the CD ROM and practice tests for Ready for IELTS, as well as IELTS Foundation Second Edition [Macmillan]. She also works in the UK as an examiner, teacher and teacher-trainer and has extensive experience abroad, resulting in her interest in producing materials for IELTS, particularly at lower levels.
Many students seem to find the Speaking exam the most challenging part of IELTS. As an examiner, it is very obvious which students have been well prepared (or not!) In this session, we will look at practical activities and techniques to help students develop their awareness of typical discourse patterns and language needed in the three stages and become more confident and fluent speakers.

Keep an eye on tweets with the hashtag #BELTE for further information.  Last year, there were some special prizes for the first 200 teachers that arrived at the BELTE Conference, so get in early to possibly claim a prize (if they are doing the same thing as last year).  I look forward to seeing my network in Brighton in October.

What talks would you like to attend?  What talks would you like to see in next years BELTE?  Did you attend last year’s BELTE 2011?  If so, what did you think of it?

Answer in the comment section below.

Drilling and Repetition Workshop by Jeremy Harmer

Starting the workshop on drilling and repetition

Yesterday, I was kindly offered the chance to attend the 2012 National Conference for English Language Teachers at the Rin Grand Hotel in Bucharest and given an invite for the conference by the British Council Bucharest.  Some prominent names in English Language Teaching gave a range of talks about various areas of language learning and teaching.  The first talk that I decided to attend was Jeremy Harmer’s talk on drilling: “Drilling equals repetition equals practice? Saying the same things creatively“.

The talk started with Jeremy’s reference towards audiolinguilism and the ‘Army Method‘ of language learning and teaching.  This method was predictably used within the military to develop and “produce military personnel with conversational proficiency in the target language” (Griffiths and Parr, 2001 p.247).  The army method relied heavily on continuous drilling and repetition, as an alternative to the traditional focus of grammar translation.  These days drilling and repetition which forms habits and the methodology was to drive out possible mistakes (Harmer, 2007 p.64).  Nevertheless, Jeremy looked at drilling and repetition in the classroom and connected continuous repetition with repeating various scales in music.  Jeremy is well known for his teacher training workshops, teacher methodology books as well as for his experience of playing music (the day before I went to conference, Jeremy provided some musical accompaniment on Friday evening).  In fact this was the second talk given by Jeremy that I attended, where he connected music to language learning.

Various speakers at the International Conference

Anyhow, Jeremy again focused on the methodological premise of audiolinguilism with the continuous repetition of practice and drilling when learning to play a musical instrument.  Personally, with my wife, whilst waiting for me to return back to the UK, decided to knit a scarf.  She started knitting my winter scarf and by the time she got to the end, she had forgotten how to finish the end of the scarf – as the last time she knitted was when she was pregnant around nine years ago.  However, my wife went to the kitchen to make a coffee and think about trying to finish the scarf and thought about going on the internet to find out more about this.  She came back to the lounge, sat down and started to finish the scarf.  My wife said to me, “My hands remembered what to do”.  Jeremy’s example, as well as the personal example, in essence is related to audiolinguilism and when learners try to acquire English, drilling supports learners to memorise lexical chunks and set phrases.

Next, Jeremy referred to his blog and a particular post: “To drill or not to drill; that is the question. Now repeat” and then looked at comments posted in reply to his musings of drilling and audiolinguilism.  Some of the comments that he highlighted in reference to drilling and audiolinguilism included those from TeachersReflect: “I must say it has worked very well because it has helped them to see that they can actually speak full sentences“, LouiseAlix: “Carolyn Graham’s jazz chants work particularly well with primary EFL learners and help with learning chunks, pronunciation and intonation” as well as reference to other comments either positive or negative.  His talk then progressed to the linking of thespians and their continuous drilling of scripts and repeating their performance and referred to the play that he linked in his blog.  There was also a reference to Scott Thornbury’s blog post on “R is for Repetition“.

It is “drill time” with Jeremy Harmer

The next part of the workshop provided attendees the opportunity to put theory into practice.  Jeremy first demonstrated the traditional form of drilling with an old fashioned listening with focus on stimulus-response drilling.  Attendees had to reformulate two sentences into one, for example: “He can’t drive” and “He is too young” – “He is too young to drive” or something similar to this.  This provided attendees the opportunity to link theory with practice.  Jeremy then moved on to other activities that could be included various young learner and adult classes.  Some of the more memorable activities included creating a list of possible answers to the question “How was the movie?”, such as:

a. It was great!
b. It was absolutely fantastic
c. …
h. I have never been so bored in all my life!

Instead of Jeremy actually answering the question above with the legible words, he replaced utterances with “doo”.  So for example, we asked “How was the movie?” and he replied “Do do dodo doo doo do do do doo” (I have never been so bored in all my life!) and attendees had to guess the correct utterance.  This is a wonderful activity that I have never included in lessons before and plan to use this activity to focus on stress and pronunciation.  Other activities included “Shouting Dictation” whereby students do the drilling to each other, as well as dialogue build-ups where Jeremy again referred to the start of the workshop and the link to a theatre play that he went to see.

The final activity that attendees were involved in included trying to remember a poem and was related to the dialogue build-ups, whereby the final word from each line of dialogue is removed and learners build up their memory and are able to (once all but the initial word of the text is removed) repeat the entire dialogue.  We looked at a poem called “Days” by Philip Larkin and attendees were able to recite the poem once word-by-word was removed.  At that point, it was the end of the very engaging and interesting workshop on drilling and repetition.

So how do you use drilling in class?  Do you focus solely on drilling or do you prefer to incorporate it during one stage of a lesson?  What are your favourite activities for drilling?  Which learners do you focus drilling with: young learners or adults?

Suggested Reading
Griffiths, C. and Parr, J. M. (2001) Language-learning strategies: theory and perception, ELT Journal Volume 55/3 (247-254).  Oxford: Oxford University Press
Harmer, J. (2007) The Practice of English Language Teaching.  Harlow: Pearson Education Limited
Richards, J. C. and Rodgers, T. S. (2001) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching Second Edition.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT: A dictionary of terms and concepts used in English Language Teaching.  Oxford: Macmillan

Guest Blog Post (Chia Suan Chong): Martin Sketchley’s Talk at IATEFL Glasgow 2012

I would like to thank Chia for taking the time to report on my IATEFL talk and sharing her experiences of my talk in Glasgow with fellow readers.

Photo courtesy of Mike Hogan

Martin Sketchley’s Talk at IATEFL Glasgow

On the last day of the IATEFL Glasgow conference 2012, Martin Sketchley’s talk on Dogme packed the room with friends, PLNers and hard-core Dogmeticians, alongside experienced teachers who have come to try and understand what this phenomenon called Dogme was all about.
Outlining his research project, Martin explained how he differentiated between his Dogme classes and his coursebook-based lessons, and just like any good presentation on Dogme, the beliefs of the audience members were suitably challenged to the point where a heated discussion between the Dogmeticians, the PLNers, the ‘disbelievers’ and ‘coursebook-lovers’ and Martin himself ensued. 
Among the topics discussed was the ever-so important definition of Dogme. Because there has yet to be a methodology book that explicitly defines Dogme and states what it is not, and as most of the discussions on Dogme have mainly existed online in the domain of Yahoo groups, Twitter and the blogosphere, it was not surprising that some of the less tech savvy crowd continued to press for clearer definitions during the talk. Martin, like most other Dogmeticians, turned to the three basic tenets of Dogme to clarify his position, defining Dogme as ‘materials-light’, ‘conversation-driven’ and ‘dealing with language as it emerges’. However, even within these three tenets lay a good dose of ambiguity.
How light exactly is materials light? Does it mean ‘materials-less’? Or does it mean ‘coursebook-less but it’s okay to use some non-coursebook materials’?  Does conversation-driven necessarily mean fluency-focussed? Or could conversations lead to a substantial focus on accuracy as we deal with the emergent language?  How does one deal with the language as it emerges? If published ELT materials had ready made lexicogrammar sections that helped learners to understand and practice these language systems, then why not use them?
In and amongst discussions about how Dogme best suits the way we know language is acquired, i.e. in a non-linear, feedback sensitive manner, as opposed to the linear presentation and practice of ‘Grammar MacNuggets’, one member of the audience surmises the discussion by stating that she had been teaching for a long time and had always adapted the materials and the coursebooks she came across, without following any of them religiously, and asked if she had been doing Dogme all these years. If so, then what was so new about Dogme? Again, the age-old question of ‘Is Dogme simply good teaching?’ resounded in everyone’s minds as the talk came to an end.

Chia Suan Chong is a General English and Business teacher and teacher trainer, with a degree in Communication Studies (Broadcast and Electronic Media) and an MA in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching from King’s College London.
A self-confessed conference addict, she spends a lot of her time tweeting (@chiasuan), Skyping, and writing. You can find out more about her on her blogsite: http://chiasuanchong.com

Using Google Docs for Research

It seems such a long time ago when I started my research project for my MA studies.  I was required to create a questionnaire, trial this questionnaire with my department at the University of Sussex, amend it and then finally get those participants to put ‘pen to paper’.  After collecting all the questionnaires back and interviewing teachers, I was required to transcribe all this information into Excel and then create a summary of the information.  It was a time consuming process and required a lot of hours sitting behind my computer to achieve this.  Then along came Google Docs.

It seems such a fantastic opportunity for any budding researcher (either related to English Language Teaching or elsewhere) to be able to create an online questionnaire, especially with Google Docs.  The best about using this online programme is that it is free and you don’t need to pay for the benefit of this service.  Furthermore, Google Docs creates a “Live Questionnaire” on the web that could be emailed, tweeted, or added to your website so that interested parties could complete it.  So, how do we create a Questionnaire with Google Docs?

Well, first things first.  You need to create a Google Account.  This is pretty easy.  Once you have created your account, you head over to Documents.  On the homepage of Documents, you need to click on Create and then scroll down to Forms.

After clicking on Form, your browser should show a very plain webpage.  If you have questions written on a more traditional word processor, you could either print this out and then transcribe the questions or you could copy and paste the questions to the online form.  The questionnaire function is great.  Authors of questionnaires will be able to incorporate a blend of ‘open’ or ‘closed’ question types.  For example, if you want participants to chose one answer from a range of possible suggestions, this is possible.  Should you wish to include suggested answers but also offer participants to suggest their own answer (usually seen as “Other” in questionnaires plus a bit of a gap for participants to pencil in their own answer), this is also possible.  Should you decide to let participants write up their own answer, this is possible (with both a short answer box or a larger paragraph answer box).  Additionally, there is the possibility of getting participants to answer a Scale question (usually related to a question on “How satisfied were you with the course?”: 1. Very Satisfied – 5. Very Unsatisfied).  There is one minor thing that is not included with Forms (which could be included in a possible update).  For example, there is no possibility of getting participants to rearrange possible statements in order of importance, etc.  However, on light of this, page breaks, headings, etc can be added to questionnaires so there is a great opportunity.

Suggested Themes in Forms

It should be noted that authors are also able to change the Theme of the questionnaire, to possibly give a more professional or clean layout.  Also embedding your questionnaire into a blog is great, but there are a few minor technical glitches that need to be ironed out before deciding to add to a webpage.  For example, when using a questionnaire that has a few page breaks, the length of the embedded questionnaire keeps its original length as if there were no page breaks.  Nevertheless, despite the aesthetic appearance of embedding into websites, Forms with Google Docs is a revolutionary online document that improves the possibility of research.  A summary is created incredibly quickly, with just one click of the mouse.

Finally, there is the opportunity for schools to incorporate Google Docs for students to complete online.  Why should there be a paper-based version of an end of course questionnaire?  Forget photocopying so much and get students to complete a questionnaire in their own time over the medium of the Internet.  Schools will be able to save time and money from this and get a very quick summary from learners about the courses that are taught.  A wonderful opportunity for those decide to fully exploit this tool.

There is a small video demonstrating the capabilities of Google Docs below:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzgaUOW6GIs]

IATEFL 2012: Horror in the Classroom by Lucy Williams

On the flight to Glasgow

Having arrived safely in Glasgow for my IATEFL talk tomorrow, I had a chance to attend one of the last talks for Thursday.  Having looked at the schedule, I decided to attend the talk given by Lucy Williams named “An ELT Horror Story”.  My initial feeling was that this talk was about a teacher’s experience in a particular country and suggested recommendations to limit ‘horror stories’ from emerging within one’s career.  However, when I walked in to the conference room about 15 people had turned up for the talk and it was about incorporating horror in the classroom aimed for possible teenagers or young adults.  The talk was to hold about 100 people, but possible reasoning why it was not that popular could be related to some other big names giving a talk at the same time.  It was liberating to show some support for the small fish in the big pond of ELT, yet I have never incorporated horror in the classroom and I can’t wait to exploit this in the classroom.

Adjectives used to describe horror movies

Nevertheless, the talk was supported by Macmillan and their website OnestopEnglish.  They were promoting their new developments of the horror reading and listening series on their teachers’ website.  All attendees were given some access to the material which is to be published in the next few months.  Lucy gave an energetic and humorous talk about horror and generated interest by getting attendees to share their experiences of horror stories from their own country.  All I could muster was to refer to “The Lady in Black” and “Jack The Ripper”.  This was supported by guess the movie title by showing corresponding movie posters.  She showed a word cloud of various adjectives used to describe horror movies.

Next attendees were introduced to a new listening activity which supports and develops the “Live in London” series of podcasts, the 2012 Olympics, etc.  This listening series introduces students to different areas of London through the use of a “Ghost Guide to London” (which should be available for download on the OnestopEnglish website in the next few months).  Lucy played the initial introduction of the Ghost Guide and I was impressed by the sound effects, the atmosphere that it creates and the voice actor is wonderful.  I immediately started to think how this could be incorporated in the classroom and some ideas were to get students to close their eyes, dim the lights, and get them to listen to the Ghost Guide.  After listening, you could get students to draw what they saw and describe/share this with other learners.  I can’t wait to incorporate this in the classroom and it is great to see how OnestopEnglish is developing with new material.

The next part of the talk was about the story series and attendees were given a listening worksheet to complete (as part of a pre-listening activity) and fill or predict what to write in the gaps.  This was related to a spooky borror story and it was wonderful.  There are various lessons and materials to be exploited with teenagers, young adults and selected adults.  The story was split into chapters with extra material available to download such as the audio, multimedia websites, video as well as blogs.  The technology really exploits and encourages learners to immerse themselves in the story.  This got me thinking about how iPads and eBooks could be used to develop immersive and engaging lessons.  It would be wonderful to create to a lesson for learners to follow that is accessible on the iPad to gauge how effective it will be in the language classroom.

The SECC where IATEFL is this year

Finally, things were wrapped up and that was the end of the talk and it was great to be introduced to various lesson ideas as well as possible material to be available at a later date.  I can’t wait to attend more talks tomorrow, but tomorrow is the big day with my talk about Dogme ELT, so I might not be able to see as many as I would like.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much chance to meet many people (as compared to last year) but I hope that tomorrow I am able to meet more people.  I hope everyone is having a great time in Glasgow and looking forward to reading more about the talks various people have attended.

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