Hits and misses from the IATEFL Day One ‘pool

9 04 2013

Image

So as promised, here’s what I got out of Day One at IATEFL. To be honest it feels like not very much, since I haven’t had much time to dedicate to it at all – just a few visits to twitter and a quick read through a few emails. I was hoping to watch the plenary session by David Crystal when I got home but then I got distracted by an irrational urge to make Delia’s braised red cabbage to go with the left overs from last night’s beef. Sorry, David, I promise I’ll watch it very soon (I have it on in the background as I write this). Here it is if you’d like to join me…

Congratulations too, David, on your new website launched today as well: http://www.davidcrystal.com something else to bookmark and come back to. Although I was all ready to explore The Memors until I read the description and came across the combination techno-fantasy and tweenagers – not for me then.

Anyway, back to IATEFL and the things that made my day…

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The biggest hit of the day for me, popping in and out of the conference asynchronously from the other side of the world, was easily Sandy Millin and her various blog posts on the talks she attended. No idea how she managed to collect so much info about so many things into such short concise blog posts, although I imagine it had a lot to do with blending her tweets together skilfully. Wonderful stuff, Sandy, and most of my impression of day one comes from your posts, so looking forward to more over the next few days.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of Sandy today was that she went to a few talks that I wouldn’t have wanted to go to, mainly because they seem more targeted towards ESL rather than EFL, which is my context. However, I was really interested in reading what she had to say about the following talks:

Penny Ur – Technology in ELT

Penny's conclusions - a means, not an end

Penny’s conclusions – a means, not an end

Seems from her conclusions Penny was talking a lot of sense and resonating with my own soundbite when it comes to technology – it’s not what you use or even how you use it but why you use it that counts. Penny’s ‘cautiously, critically, selectively’ mantra seems to reflect that. Though of course it’s also true of every activity we do in the classroom, not just ones using hi-tec specs.

I like this list that Penny shares of the things that technology offers us – word processing, editing tools, the internet, digital dictionaries, improved self-access, more and more engaging written interaction, more easily accessible audiovisual material, distance learning possibilities, and even interactive whiteboards (I’m still sceptical, but then I’ve never actually used one). All these things can help students learn – if we use them purposefully and they therefore give us something that other means don’t. So good common sense there then, but nothing new.

The downside and dangers she discussed aren’t new either, so let’s move on to the activities she offers. Nope, nothing new there either. Although I did come up with a new idea for a mobile lesson myself today, that may well have been discussed in Penny’s talk. I’ve just realised the power of having students with smartphones and the ease with which they can do quiet reading and research in the classroom.

This idea came out of a tweet I saw that wasn’t actually IATEFL linked, but very much linked to why I didn’t post yesterday:

Sean Banville Tweet

Yes, Thatcher died, and Sean has made a thirty activity lesson out of the news – incredibly impressive (not that I’ve had time to get beyond the quantity yet, but, yet again, I hope to have a look at some point), although it did make me think of a lesson about Thatcher I would do if I had a class at the moment (I’m CELTA training, though subbing Thursday night so I might try this out then), which wouldn’t involve any materials:

Lead-in – get the students to discuss the current news stories and see what they come up with (floods here in Argentina are much bigger news than the Iron Lady’s demise).

Steer conversation around to Thatcher and get the learners to discuss what they know about her and feel about the news of her death.

Lead the conversation towards the whole ‘she’s a saint’ / ‘dance on her grave’ debate and ask them for initial impressions.

Speaks for itself

Speaks for itself

Get the learners to research the topic. Tell them they have ten minutes to read up on the topic (this is where you need wifi and enough smartphones to at least be able to share in pairs / a computer room) and make notes in preparation for a debate.

Divide the class into two groups, one researches the positive side of Maggie, the other the negative side. It’s a good idea to elicit where they will go to get their stories (Facebook and TWitter are the obvious answers, along with the BBC and British newspapers).

After ten minutes research put each group together (or sub groups in a big class) and get them to share their research with each other.

After an initial comparison and exchange of info, introduce them to the idea of the debate, in which they’ll argue about the merits of Margaret. Quickly outline the debate schedule (I don’t have time to outline this here I’m afraid, wife will be home soon). And then off they go, debating Maggie (my debate format takes at least 45 minutes) to their hearts’ content – As v Bs.

It’s such a simple lesson (if you have the tech) and involves a range of skills – speaking, reading, negotiating, debating, note-taking, listening etc. And minimal preparation time. And of course you can use it again and again whenever you have a controversial news story. I hope Penny would approve of this lesson, since it’s a very simple and small use of technology that really helps the learners prepare for the main speaking task (and they can always go back for more if needs be).

So there you go, my free activity of the day – much more overt than the one in my intro IATEFL post (which only three of you found – have another look). Sorry, got to go and stir the cabbage:

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 9.21.46 PM

And so on to:

Victoria Boobyer – Implementing Handheld Learning

Seems the talk was much more about the practicalities of setting up the use of ipads rather than how to actually use them – there’s some good advice in there and many things I wouldn’t have thought of before taking a box of ipads into class (as if I’ll ever get the chance…) and a couple of fun activities are showcased at the end – picture poems and comic stories. Been getting students to write their own stories to comics for years, but it does waste a lot of Tippex, so this is definitely an area where technology helps.

Swiftly on to

Jim Scrivener – How to Demand High

which I’m very interested in cos I’m doing a talk on Demand High in Montevideo, Uruguay in May, so I wanted to see if Jim had added anything to his talk at the IH World DoS conference in January.

Judging by Sandy’s take, he has. I like the idea of getting the audience to think of ways to demand more of their students using one exercise (exactly what I’d planned to do next month) and then compare to his own.

Unfortunately from the photos I can’t see too much of Jim’s ideas on his handout – can anyone help?

I can only make out the following:

Checking answers without rubber stamping

Getting behind the answer

Listening

Feelings

Various pronunciation exercises

Practice, memory, mistakes and being playful…

I imagine most of these are already in a few teachers repertoires and there’s a lot of benfit in encouraging more people to take them on board – less is definitely more and we need to take the time to spend quality time with and on language – I hope there’s some nice ways to do that here.

Which reminds me, I also came across this while trawling through twitter today:

Phil Keegan MLT

which sounds like a very helpful article for my talk next month. Roll on MET.

Missus is on way and cabbage needs turning again, here are a few more tweets I enjoyed today from IATEFL before I go:

Fluency/accuracy dichotomy too simplistic: also need fast/but form focused activities or focus on meaning/but slow – Jason Anderson#iatefl

Echos what we’ve just been talking about

“Seeing others notes before a debate makes you more willing to take part” – great session from Jason Anderson on fluency & accuracy #iatefl

Nice idea for debate preparation to combine into my Maggie lesson

Colin MacKenzie: thinking of creative professions primes us for creative thinking #tdsig #IATEFL

A little touchy feely for me but might just work, will give it a try. But we definitely need ways of promoting creative thinking (as well as critical thinking of course).

David Crystal at GISIG #iatefl: The two forces that drive language forward: identity and intelligibility.

I favourited a few of Jim’s tweets from David’s talk (although from what’s going on in the background on my computer I think the best bits must be at the end) but this is the most interesting. Lots of food for thought there in those 10 words. Speaking of which it’s dinner time.
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My dinner is on the table

So I’ve tried to give you a flavour of my IATEFL day and I hope it’s been of some use for those of you like me who are far, far away from the magic on the Mersey. I haven’t seen the plenary, I haven’t explored the facebook page and my app has been hapless today, but I still got lots to think about and play with from the day and I hope you did too. Night!

 

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I’ve never been to IATEFL…

6 04 2013

My 16-year-and-counting career has had its ups (I’ve just finished a fabulous intensive DELTA course and am about to write a synchronous online Delta Module One course) and downs (at the last count I’ve made about 26 trainees / students cry on my courses / in my classes) , highs (I’ve got the longest title in ELT – International House World Organisation Academic Coordinator for Resources and Director of Studies Support)and lows (I’m responsible for co-ordinating IHWO’s Live Online Workshops), ins (I’m a member of the Delta-and-Lancelot-qualified-and-working–in-South-America group of one) and outs (I’ve never slept with a fellow IH teacher)2, but in 15 years of EFLing I’ve never been to IATEFL.

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This year’s conference kicks off tomorrow of course and I’m not going.  But, since various moons are colliding…

…I have a ‘slow’ week at work

I haven’t blogged much yet this year and need to get started up again

International House is 60 years young this year and we’re celebrating the fact at IATEFL

IH Buenos Aires has been doing CELTAs for five years now and I’d like to celebrate that fact with a bit of a social media push during my ‘slow week’ and therefore can persuade my boss that me spending my work day keeping up to date with IATEFL is good for business

…and…

I have a new smartphone…

My new phone

My new phone

I feel like I might be able to take an active part in the conference even though I’m 7000 miles away and four hours behind conference time.  How do I intend to do this?  Well I’ve downloaded the conference app to my phone, I’ve checked out the online support pages and forums and I’ve scanned the schedule and tried to fit it in with my own.  I’ve availed myself of the conference hashtag (#IATEFL), the conference Facebook page, cast an eye over the IATEFL registered blogs, signed myself up as one of them  and now I’m ready to roll.

The idea is to post a blog a day summarising my thoughts on my IATEFL interaction.  In order to do this I need to interact.  The plan is to…

…follow #IATEFL on twitter and retweet any interesting tweets with my own take on them (if space allows)

Following #IATEFL on tweetdeck

Following #IATEFL on tweetdeck

do much the same on the Facebook page

choose a different forum each day to read and post in

IATEFL Forums

IATEFL Forums

and then summarise this activity in a ‘what did I get out of / give to IATEFL today?’ type post.

IATEFL on A Muse Amuses

IATEFL on A Muse Amuses

Why don’t you do the same?  We can be in this together! Come and visit me each day and share your take on events.  Let’s catch up on twitter and Facebook and the conference forums and share ourselves.  We can’t go to the ball and the talks and have a coffee between them or a beer afterwards, but we can engage online and share and share and share alike.

And who knows?  Maybe as a result of our sharing, something wonderful might happen…

…a new idea for a lesson activity

The Game's Up!

The Game’s Up!

a further understanding of how our students learn English

One of my classes in IH Buenos Aires Recoleta ten years ago - has much changed?

One of my classes in IH Buenos Aires Recoleta ten years ago – has much changed?

a new friend in ELT world is made

ELT friends in Montevideo

ELT friends in Montevideo

old CELTA trainees get back in contact

Some of our lovely CELTA trainees at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training

Some of our lovely CELTA trainees at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training

new sources of information and knowledge are discovered

OTTI - best online resource I've ever discovered...

OTTI – best online resource I’ve ever discovered…

I get double figure visitors to my blog page

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someone invites us to talk at next year’s conference…

Macmillan Uruguay Conference 2012

Macmillan Uruguay Conference 2012

Whatever does happen, let’s hope I can at the very least keep to the blogpost a day pledge and that you enjoy the journey.  I’m going to IATEFL!

Footnotes
1 Just like to point out this is the author’s own opinion, not an academically researched fact. 
2 As I was writing this I actually honestly believed it was true.  While there was SPOILER 1 (fond memories), she wasn’t a teacher.  And then there was SPOILER 2 (further fond memories), but she wasn’t IH.  But then I was about three quarters of the way through writing the rest of the post when I did actually fabulously fondly remember SPOILER 3, and she was a teacher at IH, and so in the end this statement is not strictly speaking (or in any other manner of speaking) true.  But it amuses me so I’ll leave it in anyway and hopefully this footnote saves me from having actually knowledgeably lied on my blog for the first time. 




Very Professionally Developing

4 11 2011

Click here for slides IHBsAsProfessionallyDeveloping

I was asked to give a workshop today for the teachers at International House Recoleta and Belgrano based on the talk I did at the ABS Conference for Coordinators back in August.  Since I was confident they are already doing lots of the development ideas I addressed in the original talk, I wanted to attempt to make it a more personal and specific experience by adding in more interactive tasks and giving them summaries of the different tools on a plate, so to speak.

I enjoyed the journey they took me on and a lot of interesting ideas came out of it.  Hopefully some of them will go on to discover Suggestopedia in an experimental practice lesson or do some Action Research to improve their FCE learners listening skills.  Or at the very least they’ll come and comment on my blog.

Enjoy the slides and the handouts and I hope they help you to decide where to take your own Continuous Professional Develoment next.

Click here for the handouts  Professionally Developing





Professionally Developing

26 08 2011

Here are the slides from the workshop I’ve just given at the ABS Conference for Coordinators and Directors of Studies in Buenos Aires.  It’s an overview of different things teachers can do, or coordinators can encourage their teachers to do, in order to continue to develop either individually or as a school, incrementally or taking giant steps, face2face or online.

Enjoy the ideas and please share your favourite ways of continuing your professional development and let us know how you get on with putting some of these ideas into practice.

And a special thanks to all those who tweeted us from home and abroad during the session!





B2 / C1 Scrabble reading lesson – the history, the rules, the scoring

25 08 2011

C1 Reading lesson – The History of Scrabble

C1 Reading lesson – The Rules of Scrabble

C1 Reading lesson – The Scoring of Scrabble

After the Facebook episode I’ve been looking at different ways of using Facebook with my students and one suggestion from Rosie that I’ve taken on board in a big way is playing Scrabble with the students.  At the moment I’m in eight different games with different combinations of the class and it’s great to be able to add an example sentence of the words I use to help the students learn new vocab.  Even though most of them are losing to me badly (I just can’t help it, i’m not really trying to win, honest) they’re still super keen to play and are learning lots of idiomatic (and a few useless) words as they go.

To celebrate this new phenomenon I decided to do a Scrabble lesson with them, which also went down well.  For the History, we did a jigsaw reading, the rules they had to put in order and then compare with other groups and discuss the best order (there isn’t really a correct order) and for scoring they had to make up questions for the other teams to answer.  It ended up in lots of reading, some useful gaming vocab and even more enthusiasm to play Scrabble and increased their vocab.  Hope you have as much success using the materials with your classes!

 





C1 Lesson Plan – Reading: Facebook, more harm than good

9 08 2011

C1 Reading lesson – Facebook, more harm than good

I’m on a roll today – another tweet (can’t remember who from I’n afraid – if you know, let me know) tipped me off to this article on facebook so I’n gonna use it as a springboard to discuss how to use Facebook with my Advanced One class.

Another reading lesson with the detailed task focussing on the opinions put forward in the article and a follow up speaking that encourages critical thinking and has built in preparation time. 

Unlike the C2 reading on the London riots, this lesson does also have a vocab focus – will be interesting to see if it works – will let you know.  Looks like Scrabble will have to wait for homework.

Post-Lesson Update:

I was very pleased with how these materials went in the class.  The students are bright and demanding fifteen year old kids and thankfully they found the topic engaging.  Obviously they didn’t agree with the premise of Rosen’s study but they were able to come up with a long list of possible harm that Facebook can cause (although none of them seem to happen to any of them or their friends, of course) which meant the gist task was effective.  

The detailed task also worked well, since there were some disagreements about a few of the questions, so they really had to go back to the text and give evidence for their answers.  And then they were able to use the vocab phrases successfully on the whole, although they did need some cajoling to go back and try and use the context to think of a further example.  It was interesting to see that ‘feeds in to’ caused lots of problems, not least for me to think of other possible uses off the top of my head (I could only think of the Argentine President feeding in to the country’s love of football and using it to win her election campaign) – has anyone got any other suggestions.  

We didn’t have time for the discussion section, which was a shame, since that was the task I most wanted to see if it worked – next time round.  Homework was to use the vocab phrases in a connected paragraph and post them to the Facebook group page, oh, and start playing Scrabble on Facebook too.  

Would love to hear from anyone else who’s used the materials.  Sorry for the typos btw, will fix them when I get to work.  More lesson materials coming soon…





A call for help after Facebook frenzy

5 08 2011

Something very strange happened in my Advanced One class this evening.  We’d discussed last class how they knew they needed to practice writing (I managed to stop myself correcting them to develop) but that they didn’t like the writing tasks in the next unit of the book.  So I’d decided to be cool and trendy teacher (they’re 14/15 year olds) and suggest setting up a blog.

However, I also decided to be a student-centred, Dogme-style teacher (I know, I know, we went to the computer room) and let them actually set up the blog during the class.  The plan was to choose a name and what categories we’d aim for and then head to the computer room, set it up, discuss which theme to use and I’d set them a homework task of writing their profiles for the About page.

But when I mentioned this option to them, something strange happened.  They nigh on demanded that instead of a blog we open a Facebook group.   My immediate reaction was to say no, but I couldn’t think of any particualr reason why not (apart from a rather worrying nagging voice in the back of my head singing ‘security, security, security’ at me while I tried to dissuade them from continuing).  What followed was a coherent and cohseive debate on their part of the advantages of Facebook groups over blogs, I meekly conceded, but insisted they sat back down and we planned the launch properly (they had stood up as if by instinct as soon as I mentioned the words ‘computer room’).

They came up with the most boring name in the world, insisted the group was closed so none of their friends could laugh at their English (I doubt they have any friends whose English is better than theirs) and then positively begged me to post homework tasks so that they could complete them as notes on Facebook.

And off we went to the computer room…what followed was half an hour of incredible interaction, 95% of which was in English and about 40/60 split between writing and speaking.  The interaction between the four of us (I know, very small class, not empirically acceptable) while we sat at the computers was some of the best conversation I’ve witnessed in one of my classes.

One of the girls was overgrouped and so couldn’t join our group and noone could find her groups to ungroup her to allow her to join us in our group – there was language of suggestion, demonstrations of frustration, explanations, demonstrations, justifications for various odd groups she’d joined, all carefully monitored by yours truly.  Chucking in the odd technical Facebook / computer word and reformulating some of their functional language, they quickly took on new phrases and made them their own.

The other girl set up the group, named the group and invited us all and the absent ones to the group, when something really cool happened.  One of the boys who hadn’t turned up to class accepted her invitation to the group.  He even then did the task I set them – to write a quick intro to themselves.  And I merrily reacted to the content of their posts and included correct versions of their language in my responses.  And was even able to get the lad who’d not come to do the homework for next class.   I found out about their favourite music, the sports they play and that they’re all addicted to Facebook, all useful info to use to tailor texts and tasks to their likes.

Having used up my homework task in the class, I even managed to come up with another one on the spot for them to do at home, simply recommend a website in English and give three reasons why we as a class would like it.  Hopefully that will stoke their enthusiasm til next time.  My problem, and where you come in is, what do I do next time?  I mean, what do we do next time?  I can’t let them spend all their classes on Facebook, but have I lost them from the classroom?  Maybe I can use it as a reward at the end of classes if they’ve worked well and kept it in English?  Or just use it as a homework tool from now on?  They seemed so enthusiastic about the group ‘this is cool’, ‘I’m having fun’ (even the lad who was absent seemed to feel he was missing out) that I really don’t want to poor cold water on their fires by going the wrong way next time out.  Help!

What I need is advice, suggestions, ideas and help, any help, please.  Does anyone tend a Facebook group with their classes?  How do you use it?  What do you get the students to do on it?  How often do you use it?  What’s the balance between class and home time?  How do you go about improving their language while they use it?  Today has engendered such feelings of success (where’s @Harmerj and his flip when you need him) but also a plethora of questions.  Can you help me with the answers?