Making The Most of Conferences


It is that time of year where a vast group of English teachers venture to the UK to continue their professional development for the IATEFL Conference. This year it was held at Glasgow. I believe it was five years ago, in 2012, when I went to the IATEFL Conference in Glasgow to give my talk based upon my research for my MA in Dogme ELT. You can read more about my dissertation and research in this post.

Anyhow, attending conferences can be overwhelming, challenging and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. This post looks at the best ways to make the most out of conferences and how to make the most of your time.

1. Before The Conference

It is best to start your planning early. Look at what talks will be of interest of you. For example, if you are very enthusiastic about phonology, then it makes sense to attend talks about this area. However, if you do not know too much about teaching teenagers and you are curious, then go ahead and attend a talk about this. So before the conference, decide on talks you would like to attend and talks which would not be of interest, yet be open and pursue areas of teaching which could develop you professionally whether they are of interest or not.

2. Speak To Others

One very important thing to do before, during and after the conference is to chat with other attendees. It may initially appear quite difficult to speak with other attendees during a conference but it is really a great chance to network and to share your experiences with other professionals. You will also meet a range of people from different backgrounds who may have some ideas to help with your own professional background and, if you are anything like me, you can also feel a new sense of enthusiasm after speaking with other teachers with refreshing ideas just by chatting to other attendees.

3. Notes & Handouts

It can rather overwhelming going to more than four or five talks in a day, with difficulty remembering who said what and what was learnt. One thing I try to do to help me remember is taking session is to make notes about it, take handouts and, if possible, ask for a copy of the presentation – don’t forget to say “thank you”. Most speakers (myself included) now are happy to share their talks and workshops online for other professionals to refer to when needed. I feel that there is a lot to be learnt from conferences but it can be a minefield remembering what was learnt so try to organise handouts and notes accordingly.

4. Feedback

Our school has a policy for those teachers who have attended conferences and this is to offer a feedback session to all other teachers. It can be really useful to consolidate what was learnt during the conference and to reiterate what was mentioned during particular talks and workshops attended. It helps reinforce professional development and fosters an open environment for all teachers and staff.

5. Write About The Talk

When I first started going to ELT-related conferences, I found it beneficial to write about the talks that I had attended and the general overview of the conference. Many bloggers such as Sandy Millin and Peter Clements have written various posts about the IATEFL 2017 Conference in Glasgow. Again, blogging about conferences and talks will lead to other bloggers reading your posts, will remind you of what you watched and your experiences as well as connect with other bloggers who are also interested about the particular conference or attending that conference.

6. One Final Note

You are attending a conference to interact and learn more about the subject, so I would recommend to put your phone on ‘Airplane’ mode. You can use it to take photos but don’t lose yourself in your phone with emails or on social media. It can become a distraction and you are likely to come across as unapproachable. Speak to other attendees and see what you can do. Finally, enjoy your time at the conference and have fun!

Teaching Ideas for Word Stress

Pronunciation Practice Activities” by Martin Hewings

So the past few months, I have been focusing more and more on pronunciation for all levels of learners, no matter whether they are young learners or adult learners of English. Anyhow, I tried out a new lesson idea today which was partly inspired from the wonderful book, “Pronunciation Practice Activities“, written by Martin Hewings. I would recommend any teacher worth their salt to purchase this book, as it offers some great pronunciation lesson ideas which could be incorporated into class immediately.

Most teachers would identify word stress with the teaching of new vocabulary or as a technique to support pronunciation for problematic lexical items. This is all well and good but it reminds me of a teacher reacting to issues rather than proactively focusing on areas of language learning. Personally, if a teacher is able to develop a lesson based around pronunciation and developing learners’ awareness of pronunciation, so much the better. There is by no means anything wrong by reacting to pronunciation issues as they arise but I think it would be a nice change of focus when we remind learners that there are some basic principles that they can learn no matter how large or small the lexical item. Nevertheless, lets look at one lesson idea which is published in “Pronunciation Practice Activities“.

The key aim for the lesson it to identify words by their stress patterns and I first introduced this by writing the following on the whiteboard:

  • photograph (Ooo)
  • photography (oOoo)

I asked learners to tell me how many syllables there were in each word and I broke it down by underlining each syllable. Afterwards, I drew small circles above each to illustrate the syllable and then I elicited from students the stress location within the word, rubbed out the corresponding small circle and replaced it with a large circle – look at the stress patterns in brackets next to the words.

The next stage of the lesson was to draw a person, and I named this lady Sarah. I told the students that she travels a lot for business and that she has been several countries over the past few months on business. I wrote up a list of countries in random order on the whiteboard: Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Venezuela. I told students that they need to determine which countries she visited in order by matching it with the corresponding stress pattern. I then drew stress patterns numbered 1-8:

  1. Oo
  2. ooOo
  3. oOoo
  4. oO
  5. O
  6. ooO
  7. Ooo
  8. oOo

I put students into pairs and asked them to match the words to the stress patterns. I monitored the learners and afterwards elicited from the groups each country from 1-8. As I mentioned before, it was the first time that I tried this activity. It worked really well and the students enjoyed the change of pace.

What words related to ‘countries’ or ‘jobs’ could you write in the table?

As an extension, I decided to draw up a table on the whiteboard, asked learners to work again in pairs and write down some country names within the table (see the image of the table above). I elicited different country names and expected word stress patterns from the class and we all were drilling the pronunciation of country names. As a final activity, we looked at jobs and using the same word stress patterns. It was successful and the learners left the class with a smile on their face.

Finally, I had this idea which I will use in the very future: you could create a flashcard activity whereby students have to match vocabulary with the corresponding stress patterns such as with a flashcard game (pelmanism), calling out a word and having the stress patterns up on the whiteboard and students run up to the whiteboard and then try to grab it before the other team or just using different stress pattern cards and you call out a topic and go round the class, eliciting vocabulary related to the corresponding stress pattern. I could record a future lesson using some of these ideas, so you get a better idea on how you could use these ideas in a future lesson. Food for thought, hey?

Anyhow, over to you now! How do you incorporate word stress in the classroom? Do you have any favourite activities? How do you get learners more aware of word stress?

"How Filming Lessons Could Completely Change Professional Development": Modern English Teacher

The latest article published in Modern English Teacher focuses more on the latest filming that I have focused more in the past few months. Have a read to find out a bit more how teachers could film their classes for their own personal CPD as well as sharing ideas with out English teaching professionals from around the world.

Perhaps I should focus on a future article about how to edit and upload a video to a website which promotes video sharing such as YouTube. For example, I have to spend hours editing the video, rendering it, upload it to YouTube and then finally add effects and thumbnails. It takes a lot longer than you think but it is rewarding to see so many people deciding on watching some of the videos.

Have you ever recorded your lessons? What would you do with the material? Would you be happy to share your class with the world?

The Ultimate Way to Get Students Debating

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to observe one of my colleagues teach her Intermediate class with no material what so ever. She told me that she was going to get her students debating in class. I have always had difficulty getting my students to communicate and I thought it would be a great chance to see how another senior teacher encourages learners to communicate and debate naturally. It was the first time that I had been able to take away some ideas for teaching for next time. What made it even more valuable was that I recorded the lesson with my video camera – with her consent.

What I really found useful was the fact that the teacher did not use any worksheets or handouts and used all the students in class to elicit possible pros and cons for the debate. Here are the stages for preparing learners to debate and follow a similar lesson structure.

  1. Elicit possible statements for agreeing and disagreeing
  2. Board up these statements on one side of the whiteboard
  3. Choose a topic and divide the class in half
  4. One half of the class think of positives of the topic and the other half think of negatives
  5. Pair a student who focuses on positives with a student who focuses on negatives
  6. Get the learners to use the functional language on the whiteboard
  7. Monitor for feedback at the end of the lesson and prompt learners to use the functional language
  8. Stop the debate and then get students to decide who in their group won the debate and why
  9. Repeat the debate again but with a different topic and pair different students together
  10. Provide feedback and end the class

This is a great activity for Pre-Intermediate learners and above. Try it out next time and see whether you got your students speaking. A huge thank you to Lisa for allowing me to record her lesson.


How to Teach Dictogloss: Example Video

Earlier this week, I was teaching a wonderful afternoon class of elementary adult learners who were really enthusiastic and engaged. Their enthusiasm and commitment to communicate made up for their lack of language ability. I decided, for their second lesson, to tell them a story and made a dictogloss activity. The main focus for a dictogloss is for students to listen to the story a number of times and then, in a group, to rewrite the story using any of their notes. I was so pleased with their progress and the amount that they had written from my story.

If you are unsure what dictogloss is, then the video below will help how to incorporate into your future lessons.

Have you ever tried dictogloss before? Do you have any questions? If so, don’t hesitate.

Workshop Video: "Top Tips for Young Learner Teachers"

Last week, I gave a talk on teaching young learners. Finally, I have managed to upload the video of this workshop and it is available for all my followers. The slides for this workshop is available here and please ‘Like’ it and ‘Subscribe’ for more updates. If you have a question, feel free to leave a comment on the video. Thanks for all the support.