Day two at #iatefl from a downtown BsAs bus

10 04 2013

Starting this on the bus on the way home from the centre of town,

The 39 bus - from Corrientes to Carranza

The 39 bus – from Corrientes to Carranza

and no doubt won’t finish it til tomorrow morning, but wanted to try out making a post on my phone – after all, this is where our learners are headed, isn’t it?

Sandy has been a big help again today, easily my star of the conference.


‘We’ ‘saw’ the following talks together:

Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? – Leo Selivan
Bridging the gap by Ceri Jones
From preparation to preparedness – Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley

Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? – Leo Selivan

talk sounds fascinating, I love travelling back through the history of the language as he did at the beginning of his talk and this pie chart of the make up of English I haven’t seen before:

Where does English come from?

Where does English come from?

And for some strange reason I always enjoy telling my students that English is the biggest language in the world (for some other strange reason my Argentine students never believe me and insist Spanish has more words, not a problem I ever had in the Czech Republic).

And of course, the main point Leo makes about synonyms is crucial when it comes to vocab learning (well-timed, since I’m doing our CELTA session on teaching vocab this afternoon – one of my favourites) – synonyms are not the same.  This is something I’m a staunch defender of and always pick up our trainees on when they say ‘they’re the same’ to the students in class (a little demand high CELTA tutoring there, Neil?).  If they were the same then we wouldn’t have two words for something.  The reason we do have two words for something, or three or four, is because there are subtle differences between them (perhaps because the different social or geographic classes saw things differently back when the language was being molded (hang on a minute, language is always being molded (although perhaps nowadays it’s being moulded too?)).  And so they don;t differ in basic meaning, but as Leo points out, they differ in their collocations, register, colligations and semantic prosodies, to name but a few.  And this does need to be pointed out to students, as I will point out to our CELTees this afternoon.

Sandy reports only two practical ideas from Leo, collocation forks, which if I understand correctly go back to Lewis’ ideas in The Lexical Approach, and a website called Just the word, which looks like a useful reference page for teachers and students alike – demand high of yourselves by checking out collocations of words before you teach them (but remember to stay in the context in which you’re teaching).  My example nods to yesterday’s post about Day One at IATEFL:

I do like the visula simplicity of the little green bars, though I’m struggling to see why ‘cabbage at’ is just as used as ‘cabbage with’. Market forces I imagine.

Bridging the gap by Ceri Jones

is getting short shrift because I have some Academic Coordinating to do before pilates class, but seems worth a mention because the course book she is selling in the talk seems to be written on slightly more solid foundations than any others in recent years.  It seems to take into account the changing world and changing language around us and tries to be more relevant to learners by including them more in activities.  I imagine like most talks about course books she focused on the three best activities in the book, but hopefully that’s just me being cynical.  Definitely one to check out when it comes to choosing new books.  One activity she mentions that I am a big fan of is getting the learners to write a text before they read a similar text form the coursebook, they are then immediately comparing their own ideas and writing skills with those of the author, which makes the whole process more cognitive and affective.

From preparation to preparedness – Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley

This was one of the most eagerly awaited (and tweeted sessions) of the day and I picked up on the following:

This just made me want to be at the conference and at the session.  Whether or not the presenters were giving us good ideas, I’d love to have been there to see them try.

And this tweet makes me want to read these articles.  We should all be expecting the unexpected in our lessons – and enjoying it!  One of the things I loved most about our recent Delta Intensive was watching very good teachers (when the lesson went to plan) become even better teachers by changing the plan, adapting the plan and losing the plan depending on their students’ needs.

But unfortunately there weren’t too many practical ideas coming out of the session, except for this list:

Training teachers to improvise

Training teachers to improvise

Improvising teachers

Improvising teachers

Those last two are the ones I’m going to focus on more, since the others are hopefully already ‘just good teaching’, aren’t they?

Time to coordinate, so I’ll leave you with a few random thoughts on a few random tweets I favourited throughout the day:

Completely agree with this one, Mike.  I always try and set my self a new development goal each year (and normally manage many more along the way).  This year’s include blogging IATEFL :), writing a Delta Module One Live Online course and celebrating IH World’s 60th anniversary (hope you enjoy the free gifts, since many of them are from me).

This tweet too sounds like the kind of session I enjoy – practical activities that really work in the classroom.  How many were there?  What were they?  Do they really promote further fluency?  How can I find out?

I include this tweet because I don’t really get it.  Apart from people actually paying less attention to the speaker during conversations because they are distracted by their phones (although at conferences we probably concentrate more when we are tweeting / blogging during the talks?), speech itself isn’t changing, so how does the speaker envisage speaking activities reflect the more digital communication that there is?  Anyone who was there care to enlighten me?

This link sounded good so I’m sharing it with you.  Obviously I was intrigued by the Dogme / Demand High mix (’twas only a matter of time) so let’s see what it’s all about shall we? Not much D&D (un)fortunately, so little in fact I had to comment on it:

Hi Tom,
Very common sense if your students have the technology – sounds just like my kind of lesson and similar to one I shared yesterday in its use of whatever tech is ‘handy’.
Am interested in hearing how you made it Demand High though, since that doesn’t come out of your post and those dominoes don’t sound very Dogme (not that that’s a criticism).
But I hope your title and tags brought you a few new readers like myself anyhow ;) .

I’m a big fan of Wily’s and would love to have been at his talk – he really is an authentic teacher and always makes you think.  If I have time I’ll try and get more of a taste of his and Katy Davies’ talks to comment on tomorrow, because they sound like to of the talks of the day.

Work beckons.  What do you reckon?




8 responses

11 04 2013

I’d be interested to hear more of what Willy Cardoso had to say on coursebooks, as what you’ve posted (as is normally the case with his ideas) looks interesting. This is a constant conundrum that coursebook writers face (and often get a lot of stick for not being able to do it), i.e. how to balance cultural diversity and the complexities of language (or indeed, chaos with the need to sell enough copies to make the whole enterprise worthwhile. So many times when when writing I’ve been told something along the lines of ‘that’s a great idea, but it won’t work in such and such a market’. Perhaps the alternative is to move away from large-scale coursebooks, but how would that affect quality of production in other areas, I wonder?

11 04 2013

Yes, I’d love to hear more too, Damian, but I doubt he addresses the conundrum you face. I think the solution is probably to keep the large-scale course books for the markets where they’re most needed and then those who don’t feel they give enough can choose to move away from using them so much.

It’s easy to criticise course books from an individual’s perspective and to say that you could (and do) create much better / relevant / personalised materials for your students in your context. But then course book writers never said that’s what they were trying to do in the first place. But then we’ve agreed on this for quite a while, haven’t we?

12 04 2013

Exactly – without the large-scale markets, and the ‘extras’ and quality in coursebooks they afford, some beautiful things might not happen. But yes, they don’t always work for all, and I’m sure someone as skilled as Willy knows how to adapt to his own context. I think calling them ‘irresponsible’ is perhaps going too far though. Surely it’s the cultures in which those ideas aren’t accepted that are irresponsible? But then that’s a whole ‘nother argument, I guess.

Anyway, I must be off – I have coursebooks to write! : )

11 04 2013

Thanks for the mention — just wanted to point out that the post you linked to and commented on admits to being brief at the outset, and also to being part of a series, all linked to at the start of the post. I keep hearing talk about D & DH, and don’t really get the fuss (haven’t the principles behind them been in most best practices lists for decades?), but I also can’t claim to have anything but a novice understanding of the specific lit involved. I know you’re swamped right now, but perhaps you’ll have a chance after IATEFL to check out my reply to your comment — I spelled out what I thougght were the D and DH bits underlying that lesson (and the series of lessons).

Meanwhile — impressed you did all this linking and summarizing with your phone. I think kids are gonna use other devices to do this kind of task, and if they haven’t got access to those, they’ll twt n txt lk ths…

11 04 2013

Hi Tom,
Many thanks for coming over and continuing the conversation. I’m afraid I didn’t do it all on the phone, my batteries ran out half way home so I finished it off this morning on the computer as predicted (I had just finished discussing Leo’s sesh when the batteries went).

It would be possible to do all this on a phone though, it just takes longer than when you have a bigger screen and a proper keyboard. However, I actually think that language like tat n txt lk the is going out of the window – predictive text is so refined these days that you can just type half a word and then the space bar nad it’s all done for you…

Will def get back to your blog to discuss your DDH (and to find out what a snark is!) but it’s time for quality wife time now…

14 04 2013
Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? – Leo Selivan (IATEFL 2013) | Sandy Millin

[…] Update: Neil McMahon includes some comments on Leo’s talk in his post about day 2 of the conference. […]

14 04 2013
Bridging the gap – Ceri Jones (IATEFL 2013) | Sandy Millin

[…] Update: Here is Ceri’s post with the slides. Neil McMahon includes some comments on Ceri’s talk in his post about day 2 of the conference. […]

14 04 2013
From preparation to preparedness – Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley (IATEFL 2013) | Sandy Millin

[…] Update: Christina Rebuffet-Broadus’s post about the same presentation Neil McMahon includes some comments on Adrian and Alan’s talk in his post about day 2 of the conference. […]

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