Mental Health in ELT – the discussion continues…

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about mental health in ELT, sharing links to various newspaper articles that point to an increase in mental health problems within education in general, among both teachers and students, and sharing my own experience of poor mental health in the workplace. I am pleased to now share with you all the good news that the topic of mental health, which we can all agree is a very important one, will be the focus of at least one session at IATEFL.

Phil Longwell will be doing a talk about mental health, part of which will draw on the results of a survey that he has published in order to collect qualitative data relating to this subject. It would be great if as many people as possible complete the survey, as this would provide an interesting insight into the state of mental health of teachers in various ELT contexts. I encourage you all to complete the survey and look forward to hearing about the insights gained when I attend Phil’s talk next year.

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IATEFL Webinar – “Research is for teachers? You must be joking!”

I have a geeky liking for research so my interest was piqued by the title of this IATEFL webinar by Richard Smith of Warwick University, so I decided to attend. It was an interesting way to spend an hour on a grey Saturday British winter’s afternoon. Here is what I managed to catch with my ears and fingers: 

Richard aims to offer positive solutions to the research – teaching gap. He wants to advance the claim that there can be research for ELT Practitioners but we need to rethink how we think about research in some ways. He wants to focus on teacher research.

Background:

There have been articles recently and last year in the ELT journal stating that research is largely irrelevant to teachers. Richard did a poll for what we think from strongly agree to strongly disagree 1-5. It can’t be denied that there are many teachers that would agree with this. R isn’t going to go over all the arguments in the articles by Medgyes and Maley. Teachers say researchers just talk to one another, research isn’t accessible to teachers, we have to pay for access to them and even then they are written in a language we can’t understand, while researchers say they need to be precise, use a precise language, hedge, show the complexity of issues. The argument can go back and forth, with quite a lot of heat. If you look at the articles to Medgyes and Maley, you will see there some good responses, some supportive and some against.

Richard thinks there is a lot of truth in the idea that a lot of research is not so relevant to teachers but there are some quite bad stereotypes regarding what research is, imagining it as positivistic and experimental, but also imagining that researchers are very far from teachers. Smith sees himself as a teacher, a teacher educator and a researcher, and this is how he has always seen his role. He feels that in his work he relates what he is doing to how he was as a teacher and how he is now as a teacher, and that other researchers do too. He thinks we need to find a middle way where we are not stereotyping or dichotomising researching and teaching.

He did a poll regarding “not all applied linguistic educational research is relevant to teachers”. Which was mostly agreed with. He said that suggests that some research IS and shifted the focus to that more positive direction. He showed us this:

In this book, Palmer was trying to set up something like applied linguistics, a research field of study that would help teachers to found their teaching or base their teaching on firmer foundations. In the book is a lot of complex jargon but also it’s an explicit attempt to link science and language teaching. 1917 is considered the beginning of a scientific period in language teaching that went for at least 50-60 years, and you could argue still continues now. How can we improve language teaching through reference to background disciplines? A past example is the audio-lingual period, based on ideas that linguistics can provide answers to language teaching in a very direct way. There were also things going on before Palmer:

Non-native speakers in France wanted to use phonetics, something from linguistics, in the classroom, as something helpful for language teaching. The indispensable foundation for language teaching according to Henry Sweet.

According to Palmer, we don’t lack method, we lack the basis for the  method. He wasn’t a dogmatic methodologist, he believed that we needed research to have a rational basis for decisions regarding what is good in different contexts. For different kinds of classes or students. Prabhu, in India, has said the same thing – that there is no one best method, we need different ways of teaching to meet different needs. However, this has not always been the case, there have been plenty of people with attachment to one particular method or another, in a quite dogmatic way. Palmer says we don’t just take from background disciplines, we have to as practitioners confirm and justify these principles by putting them to the test of actual and continual practice. As a teacher, in Belgium, he explored the possibilities of various methods, one after another, adopting and discarding one or another as the result of research and experience. He was an action researcher. In 1922 he went to Japan and founded the Institute for Research in English Teaching.

This institute involved many Japanese school and university teachers and was like a teacher association. There were annual conferences. They issued “The Bulletin”. He also put out books e.g. English through actions.

It was just one way. There were different ways, and the idea was for the teachers to pick and choose.

Michael West was another person who worked in a similar way, in Bangladesh, producing especially reading materials. He and Palmer were both active in the development of extensive reading, and reading material for teaching a foreign language language e.g. graded readers. Palmer’s materials influenced Hornby’s approach (situational language teaching).

<My internet died briefly at this point so some more information along this vein is missing. I pick up with the return of my internet below:>

1970s – there was a golden age of good links between theory and practice, in terms of applied linguistics in the UK. This was when communicative language teaching was developed. Smith says it was perhaps unfair of Maley to say there was nothing coming from research to teaching. There was a lot of good linkage but nevertheless there is a perception that the two sides have grown apart again. The ‘problems’ regarding English language teaching are now ‘bigger and wider’, maybe?

Smith says we can try to change the situation and this is the focus for the next part of the talk. He talks about a project that started in 2009, whereby British council recognised that real world concerns of practitioners not being addressed by research. So, they wanted to do a survey of ELT research. They were keen for the project to look for research that is relevant to English teachers. ELT research was defined as:

He did this with Sheila Rixon. They were interested themselves, as they didn’t know what research was going on that wold be relevant to teachers. The answer was, more than you might expect. The project has now finished, so the database is no longer updated but at the time a lot of research was going on around testing, much by Cambridge Assessment/CRELLA. There was also a lot of research being done by publishers to find out more about materials and target markets, but that isn’t published research. There was not much research into English for young learners. Which is a paradox as it is the most widely taught across the world. There was also not a lot of research into language teaching in developing countries except by visiting PhD students. Finally, there was also not a lot of teacher research published.

Positive ways for bridging the gap that Smith has seen:

  • TESOLacademic has recorded keynote speeches and made them freely available.
  • ELT research bites (E.g. Language Teaching in the past)
  • Blogs e.g. by Scott Thornbury, Geoff Jordan who mediate between research and teachers, making it more accessible.
  • There are also an increasing number of open access journals/articles/chapters.

However, there is a perception that research is still very much removed from teachers.

Smith argues that we should take the idea of ELT research further. Define it more strongly as research for ELT practitioners. He thinks it has started to happen in some ways. British council has started some research awards:

He puts forward something that sounds good in theory:

And says he has seen it in practice. E.g. researcher/teacher collaboration. Allan Waters was very keen on this idea. It doesn’t go on as much as it should but there are some positive examples. University/training college partnerships and teacher association research are other possible contexts for this. Encouraging teacher research is another form of this reconceptualisation of research.

Teacher research is:

In the context of these debates, teacher research has come up to some extent but could be addressed more. It’s quite common for teachers to say they don’t have time, researchers may look down on it. Smith doesn’t want to go into that today. Instead, he wants to share some of his own experience in introducing teachers to teacher research. He has come to see it as a useful and important way to address and solve (to some extent) problems. We need to address the images that teachers may have about research not being for them but for scientists, involving a lot of reading and report writing. We need more appropriate definitions, images and models of research.

Here are defintions that he has used with teachers:

If we use definitions like this, we can start to show teachers that research is something they carry out in their everyday lives.

This is something Smith does in his teaching fairly often:

Do we think it is research, he asks. Data is collected. Categorising is analysis of data. It’s useful for him. Does research have to be shared widely? Not necessarily? It’s also feasible for teachers to do.

Research is exploration, he puts forward. Feasible for teachers even in difficult circumstances. With a group of teachers he went through the following process: What are the problems? Turn the problems into questions. Try to answer the questions. Go away and try out some of the ideas put forward in the answers.

Exploratory action research – The Champion Teachers project in Chile. This was a more gentle introduction to action research, ensuring that the action would come from the exploration of the context. He didn’t have time to talk us through the example but you can read about it in British Council open access book about exploratory action research.

If you are interested in this topic and want to know more:

  • In January/February there is an Electronic Village online where there will be aClassroom-based research for professional development. The link to it is on the page of links here. It is free and gives you guidance on doing classroom based research. They will have 25 voluntary mentors. It takes place over five weeks from January to February.
  • There is also a Facebook group for Teacher research.
  • There is the Research SIG.

Here are some useful links that were shared in the “Links” part of the webinar platform by various people:

From the Q and A at the end:

Coming up with questions related to the situation – what is bothering you? Un-peeling the onion of the situation. Asking yourself questions and then finding the answers by collecting and analysing data. (Exploratory) Then you plan some change, try the change and analyse what happens (action research).

If it is so close to practice and what we do anyway, then why call it research? Is the word research itself the problem?

It does have the connotation of being far from teachers, reflected in the arguments that go on, Smith has been arguing that it shouldn’t be seen in that way. Research can be an empowering form of inquiry into what goes on in the classroom. ELT research can include teacher research and university researchers who work with the concerns of teachers, with a coming together in the middle. This goes back to the collaborations that he spoke of earlier. We should aim to find the middle ground.

If you attended (or are Richard!) and think I got anything down wrong, do let me know so I can edit it! Thank you Richard and IATEFL for a great webinar. 

Bite-size TD at the ELTC

Teacher development is a key part of working life at the ELTC and the team who are in charge of it this term recently rolled out a new initiative, “Bite-size TD”. The idea is to build up a collection of recordings done by teachers of short talks on a range of topics, that other teachers can watch when they have 15-20 minutes spare and fancy a bit of CPD.

I volunteered to do a whistle-stop tour of www.wordandphrase.info/academic which is a corpus tool. Without the /academic part of the web address, a general corpus of texts is analysed, with the academic part included, it analyses a corpus of academic texts from a range of disciplines. Both sites work in exactly the same way, so what I talked about today could equally be applied to the general version. My powerpoint was adapted from one that I used with my ESUS (English Skills for University Study, which has since undergone a few changes and been renamed) students last term, with the aim of introducing the site to them through the medium of guided discovery.

My talk worked in two ways: a) For teachers unfamiliar with the site, I suggested they use the pause button a bit and try to do the activities on the site as they went along, to understand better how it works. b) For teachers who were already familiar, and for the teachers in a) once they were familiar, it modelled my approach to introducing students to the site and provided some example activities that they could use with students.

I suggested that as well as using this approach in class with the students as an introduction, it’s useful to reinforce it by:

  • modelling use of it yourself in class if students ask you something about a word/phrase. (Particularly if you can project it)
  • using it in tutorials based on students’ written work, to guide error correction
  • encouraging students to use it before submitting a piece of work, to check their use of key language

Here is the powerpoint I used (click to download):

I’ll add the recording later if the link is a public one, but you should be able to follow what to do via the powerpoint, it’s step-by-step and the answers are included.

Do you use wordandphrase.info(/academic) with your students? How? Would love to hear about your approach/ideas for using it via the comments box below. 🙂

Happy weekend, all!

Scholarship Circle “TEFLising EAP” (3 and 4!)

Today was the fourth session of our new scholarship circle “TEFLising EAP”. (You can read more about what a scholarship circle is and what it does here.)

–  Yes, the fourth: the third was last week but I was buried under rather a large pile of essays so I didn’t have time to write it up. So this week is a double bill! Hurrah!

To quote from my write-up of the first session,

The idea behind this one is that EAP lessons can get a little dry – learning how to do things academically is not necessarily the most exciting thing in the world even if it is essential for would-be university students – and for the students’ sake (as well as our own!) it would be great to bring in more, let’s say ‘TEFL Tweaks’ – things that we used to do when we taught at language schools abroad (warmers, personalisation, fun activities etc!) and have got out of the habit of doing in the EAP context but that could actually be adapted for use here without losing the all-important lesson content.

 

In session 3, last week, we shared the following ideas:

1. Catch-all nouns and cohesion in pairs

This is a useful review activity for students who don’t seem to be using catch-all nouns in their writing.

For those less familiar with EAP-dom, “catch-all nouns”, also sometimes called “general nouns”, are nouns that can be used to condense ideas already put forward, so that you can refer to them and give more information about them. They are general words that take on specificity through what comes before (or indeed after) them, for example problem, issue, process, approach, trend etc.

For this activity you:

  • give each student a worksheet with some examples of catch-all nouns in use, with the noun gapped out. Each student has a different set of examples.
  • get the students to take it in turns to read out a sentence to their partner, who needs to use the co-text to guess which general noun is missing. They must also decide if they need the singular “this” or the plural “these” in front of the noun.

E.g. First the cocoa beans are picked by hand and placed in the sun to dry. Then they are put in large sacks and loaded onto lorries (sounding familiar to anyone who teaches IELTS?!). ……………….. is repeated many times a day. Answer: This process.

Here is an example set of worksheets that my colleague whose idea it was gave to us:

The benefits of this activity are:

  • it makes the students think carefully about which catch-all nouns work best in which contexts.
  • it forces the students listen carefully to what their partner is saying, and in order to provide the answer they of course need to listen AND understand, so it also provides some detailed listening practice.
  • it also makes them think about whether the noun is singular or plural, and which determiner they need – this/these – to use with it. (Something our students tend to make mistakes with!)

Variation: Have students stand in a line; read out a gapped sentence; students step forward if they can think of a word + determiner that fit the gap. Actually I think it would work really nicely with mini-whiteboards too. Ahhh mini-whiteboards. Those were the days… 😉

2) Adapting a listening

This activity can be used with any listening extract where the speaker refers to data taken from a graph, where the graph has been provided in the materials for students to look at.

Instead of showing the graph to the students, get them to listen and make notes on it. Then put them in groups and get them to produce the graph based on what they have written down.

If any of you academic IELTS teachers out there are feeling keen, you could record yourselves talking about data from a graph (make it a funny graph so the activity is less dry!) and get the the students to produce the graph based on what you say. Then you could get the students to repeat the activity themselves – group them, get them, in their groups, to prepare a graph and discuss how they would present the information in it (using IELTS writing part 1 language) and then pair them up with someone from another group. Student A talks about their graph, student B listens and takes notes and then tries to draw the graph. (Or they could directly draw if you don’t want to bring note-taking skills into it!) They swap roles and repeat. Hopefully the language becomes more meaningful through being used communicatively. 

3) Speed-reading relay

The aim of this activity, as you would guess, is to work on students’ reading speed.

  • Put students in pairs or small groups.
  • Give each pair or group one copy of the text
  • Student A reads for 30 seconds, stops and makes a mark on the page where they got to and then verbally summarises what they just read for Student B.
  • Student B reads on from where Student A stopped. Another 30 seconds. Repeat as above.
  • This goes on until a pair or group gets to the end of their text. The first pair/group to do so is the winner!

You could use this activity as a way of practising different speed reading techniques: teach students a handful of different techniques (find examples here) and then use this as a fun way to practice them.

4) Variation on a debate theme

This is less of an activity and more of a variation on an activity: when you are doing a class debate, instead of dividing the class into 2 groups, half for and half against the motion, divide them into three groups and give each group a role:

  • For (pick a group of people who would naturally be in favour of the motion. E.g. if the motion were to ban video games, perhaps worried parents)
  • Against (pick a group of people who would naturally be against the motion. Following the above example, it could be video game designers)
  • Politicians (these have to prepare difficult questions to raise during the course of the debate, imagining that they have to think about what their constituents might say in response to the arguments raised)

In session 4, today, we shared the following ideas:

1. Task-based Evaluation (mine!)

  • Do a speaking ladder. Round 1:talk about the last restaurant you went to. (Rules: students  must elaborate not just say “yeah it was ok, I ate curry”!) Round 2: tell your new partner about the restaurant your old partner visited and how they felt about it. You can repeat this so that each student talks about their restaurant twice and a partner’s restaurant twice so that more language can be generated.
  • While they are doing this, collect examples of anything evaluative that they say.
  • Then students look for example evaluative language in a text and categorise it – modal verbs, adjectives, reporting verbs, adverbs.
  • Go back to the language students produced earlier and read out each example for them to put into their tables (unless you can cunningly feed it all into the computer while they are busy on one of the identification activities and then display it when they are ready! But this way they have to listen carefully so it’s still good!).
  • Repeat the speaking ladder activity with the aim of students upgrading their language from their initial effort. Give them some planning time first and if there is time, do a repetition.

My thinking behind this activity was that in day-to-day life we do evaluate, but when it comes to academic writing, students think that evaluation is this really difficult thing and it usually therefore gets omitted, so hopefully rooting it in the students’ own (meaningful) output, it will be more memorable and make more sense.

2. Bringing evaluation into synthesis

This activity is an extension of the fishbowl synthesis activity we talked about in session 2. Once students have fishbowled (yes it’s officially a verb now – at least in the USIC staffroom!) and written the summary paragraph, usually what you will find is that they have just about managed to synthesise stuff but there will be little if any evaluation. To get them to make that extra step which is needed in order for it to be a good paragraph rather than just a collection of information, elicit from them what’s missing from their paragraphs (which are now on a Google doc) – i.e. evaluation – and then brainstorm/board evaluative language that they could use. Then give them time to edit their paragraphs accordingly.

(This could be used in conjunction with my activity…gotta love the scholarship circle!)

3. Error correction scavenger hunt

  • Brainstorm, as a class, typical mistakes that students make in their writing. (If students say “grammar” or “vocabulary”, get them to be more specific!).
  • Prepare slips of paper/post-its with one error type and example per slip before the lesson and at this point hand out one to each student. Students mingle and explain their error type to the other students. (You could then put them in groups and get them to make a list of as many as they could remember and see which group remembers the most, for a bit of fun :-p )
  • Give out an error correction scavenger list like this one:

  • Put up sentences, or chunks of two or three sentences, taken from students’ work, around the classroom on the walls. Anonymise it and number each piece of paper (on which is/are the sentence(s) from one student).
  • Students walk round looking for the errors on the scavenger list, with speed obviously being of the essence. They find the mistake and write the number of the piece of paper they found it on next to the mistake  type on their scavenger list.
  • You go round and stick a post-it above each piece of paper with the error type(s) in the sentence(s) on it.
  • Students go round in their pairs and check they have the correct error type per sentence and then try to correct the sentence.
  • In groups, students compare their corrections.
  • Whole class feedback.

The idea of the lesson is to get students looking for typical error types. It also gets them up and moving, which is always a bonus in the EAP classroom! No reason why it couldn’t work with IELTS essays and the like as well! (This idea originally came from this pdf by Ken Lackman, about getting students involved in error correction, worth a look for more ideas.)

So, two great sessions, two motivation injections, and lots of ideas. 🙂 Let us know if you use any of them and how you got on!

Winning the battle against low self-esteem (A guest post by Katherine Bilsborough)

Katherine Bilsborough has worked in ELT for 30 years. These days she lives in the mountains of northern Spain where she divides her time between writing and gardening. She very kindly agreed to write this guest blog post for me to share with you all. Enjoy it! 

Kath Bilsborough

Kath Bilsborough – copyright Katherine Bilsborough, used with permission.

Winning the battle against low self-esteem

Last year I wrote a couple of journal articles and gave a BELTA webinar on the topic of self-esteem. I looked at the psychology underpinning low self-esteem and in particular, its causes and consequences. I then suggested some practical ideas for increasing self-esteem, focusing on the ELT teacher. My reasoning was that if we can find strategies to increase low self-esteem in ourselves, we’ll be equipped to help our colleagues and our students too; first by recognising the signs and then by responding in a number of ways.

My interest in self-esteem emerged from my own professional insecurities and, in particular, from conversations I had with colleagues. They found it hard to believe that behind my apparent confidence and self-assurance lay a wobbling, self-conscious doubter who felt like a fraud and was constantly questioning her ability as a teacher and her right to be standing at the front of a classroom. I might have doubted my skills as a teacher but I was, apparently, an excellent actor. I’ve come a fair way since those days but I still have spells of insecurity and vulnerability. The difference is that now I’m armed with strategies to deal with them and it helps to know that I’m not alone. Even the most experienced, ‘big name’ professionals go through wobbly patches.

For this post, I’ve researched the subject further and come up with a more comprehensive list of practical ideas to help improve self-esteem. Items on the list are sometimes specific to ELT teachers but simple tweaks can make them relevant for students too.

Recognising low self-esteem

It is perfectly normal for everyone to feel down about themselves at times and even the most self-assured people suffer from a lack of confidence from time to time. But when the feelings persist it can be an indication that you need to sit up and do something about it. Some of the most common signs of low self-esteem are:

  • Being overly critical of yourself.
  • Ignoring your strengths and accomplishments.
  • Focusing on your weaknesses.
  • Comparing yourself with other people.
  • Being unable to accept compliments when they are given.
  • Having a negative outlook on life.
  • Worrying about not doing well or not being liked.
  • Exaggerating the things you perceive as negative.

 It isn’t always easy to identify the causes of self-esteem. Things like constantly being overlooked for promotion or being bullied are clear-cut. But sometimes motives are less obvious. The good news is that self-esteem levels aren’t fixed and there are plenty of things you can try to address the problem.

Twenty tried and tested recommendations

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-16-38-17

The keys to winning that battle! (Picture by Bohman Keys, certified for non-commercial reuse with modification.)

 

1          Practise positive self-talk in order to build your confidence.

2         Keep a ‘positive calendar’ in which you write down three things each day that went well in class because of your efforts or actions.

3         Know your subject matter as well as you can by studying it further. CPD is an excellent way of increasing self-esteem.

4         Invest time and effort into the things you can change and try to ignore the things you can’t change.

5         Increase your understanding of the theories that underpin teaching and learning. This will make you a more confident teacher.

6         Do regular exercise. Being fit and active relieves stress and helps you feel good about yourself.

7         Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day. This doesn’t have to be something big. It can be something as simple as meeting a friend for a coffee or listening to your favourite music.

8         Make sure you are surrounded by people who are supportive, in the real world and in cyberspace.

9         Distance yourself from people who are critical. If this is difficult, try telling them how you feel and politely ask them to think before they criticise you in future.

10       Stop comparing yourself to others. We all have a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses. Everybody is good at something.

11       Don’t be too hard on yourself when you get something wrong. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

12       Get to know your students. The better you know them, the more effective your teaching (and their learning) will be.

13       Celebrate every achievement, however small.

14       Know your work context well. Make sure you know where resources are kept and how the latest technology works. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

15       Talk to a colleague (or colleagues) about problems or worries you might have with your classes. Most of the time a problem shared really is a problem halved and two heads really are better than one.

16       Take pride in your ideas and your opinions and don’t be afraid to voice them. But don’t be afraid to change your ideas too. Willingness to change is a strength, not a weakness.

17       Don’t aim for perfection, it’s unachieveable so disappointment is inevitable.

18       Have realistic expectations in the classroom. For example, if you teach in a monolingual context, don’t expect all of your students to speak English all of the time. It isn’t going to happen.

19       Try to keep a positive attitude towards teaching. Joining social media groups of ELT teachers or creating a PLN will help with this.

Above all …

20       don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Sometimes self-esteem can become severe and lead to depression. If this happens, you should speak to a doctor or a psychologist. Don’t forget that everybody is human and a cry for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s common sense.

Summer School

That, in two words, is why this blog has been so quiet… We are just coming to the end of Week 5 out of 10.

My language learning update is well overdue – but rest assured, the absence of it is not due to my having given up on the languages, but rather because I don’t have time to do it AND blog about it! 😉

There are loads of things I want to blog about but the precious non-work hours that I have are split between sleeping, eating, cycling/running, gardening and language learning, pretty much. Oh and cuddling Flora hamster. Normal service will probably resume sometime in September – most likely AFTER I have my post-summer school holiday!

I hope you are all having fantastic summers, wherever and whatever you may be doing with them. (Do comment and tell me, it would be lovely to hear!)

60 seconds...starting now! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

Can I have some more hours in the day, please?! 🙂  Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

My IATEFL Summary of Posts

I thought I would collate all my IATEFL blog posts into a single post, as I usually do, but with a twist: This year, I am going to weave them into a narrative of my IATEFL 2016.

Tuesday

I arrived at the ICC  from New Street station after my “I’m going to walk” initial attitude had been wiped out by immediately getting lost and doing a big circle at the end of which I was back at the station again. “Where are the taxis?” was a much more successful approach. Thankfully, Sandy was there when I arrived (somewhat flustered!) and pointed me in all the appropriate directions, which meant I was well in time for the start of the event.

This was the day I attended the Materials Writing SIG Pre-Conference Event – Print VS Digital: Is it really a competition? I watched Ceri Jones’s talk about the similarities between print and digital, through looking at a specific learning task in various print and technological manifestations. This was followed by Genevieve White telling us about the skills needed to adapt a print course to digital. After the break was the young learners and teenagers section – Katherine Bilsborough gave us lots of great tips for primary materials design and Fiona Mauchline took us into the minds of teens. From this, we moved on to a focus of self-publishing with Damian Williams and editor etiquette with Sue Kay. I was very surprised to discover that leaving 2 spaces after a full-stop isn’t something that everybody else does. I learnt it when I learnt how to use computers and have done it ever since…or have I? Looking at my blog posts, it seems that I actually don’t leave two spaces after all. Yet I could have sworn I did… Just as well it’s no longer a thing then! The SIG day was rounded off with a panel discussion.

On Tuesday evening, along with Sandy, I discovered that Jamie’s Italian does some very good vegan options – yum! Of course, the time spent catching up with people who you haven’t seen, well, since the last IATEFL conference, is all part and parcel of the experience.

Wednesday

It started, of course, with the opening plenary delivered by the wonderful David Crystal, which did not in any way disappoint. A fascinating hour and twenty minutes. My next session was a sit-out, as I wanted a bit of head-clearing time before I did my talk in the 12.00 slot (How amazing to have such an early in the day AND early in the conference slot! (I’m used to the penultimate day graveyard slot…). It was part of a listening forum, which meant that I spoke alongside Craig Wealand and Ellen Servenis. Craig talked about using podcasts with students, in terms of encouraging them to listen outside the classroom, while Ellen talked about using listening journals with, like me, the goal of encouraging students to use metacognitive strategies to help improve their listening skills. Both talks were very interesting and I enjoyed being part of a forum, though our time allocation seemed incredibly brief!

That done, I could get down to the serious business of making the most of my IATEFL. After lunch, I attended an EAP-focused talk, by Angela Smith which was about sharing ideas for supporting postgraduate students, a materials development focused workshop, by Kath Bilsborough and Sue Lyon-Jones, which had loads of ideas for using what’s already out there in your materials and how to do that, and a talk about introducing flipped learning into a university EAP setting, done by Robyn Brinks in collaboration with Pearson, so a nice variety, all in all.

From 6.30 to 8.00 in the evening, following a rushed bite to eat at The Handmade Burger Co. near to the ICC, it was the Cambridge “invitation-only” event time. I have no idea why I was invited, but on the plus side for me, there were two-minute talks as well as the usual hobnobbing that I am so inept at! Through these I had a taste of Silvana’s fantastic presentation style, which made me look forward to the next day’s plenary.

Thursday

Well, between having seen Silvana speak briefly on Wednesday evening at the Cambridge thing and having read the abstract for her plenary – The Native Factor: the haves and have nots – I had high expectations. What I didn’t expect was to reach the end of it feeling like I wanted to cry and having to fight really hard to get all my emotions back under control. Because seriously, who cries in a plenary, how embarrassing! Turns out I wasn’t the only one. Such an important topic, so immaculately delivered, I highly recommend that you watch the British Council recording.

The plenary finished a bit late (I assume – I went directly to the next session I had earmarked and it had already started!). It was a session about using TextInspector. I didn’t write a blog post because not only did I arrive late but I couldn’t get on the wifi either, so made a few notes in Word. These are they:

Text Inspector

Late entry – worth it! (plenary)

 www.textinspector.com

  •  Profiles a text according to CUP – CEFR band scales. You can try a version for free on the Vocabulary Profile website.
  •  If you go to Text Inspector: paste text into text box, click analyse and you get the output from text inspector. Different metrics down lefthand side. If you think it has miscounted e.g. number of sentences, you can edit it and update the scores.
  • You can also jump straight to the scorecard and get an overall analysis of your text, all the statistically significant data. Number of metrics used are e.g. average syllables per sentence etc. They have a statistically significant influence in terms of Band.

Not really worth a blog post, I think you’ll agree! It looks an interesting tool though, worth a closer look. I did manage to get on the WiFi for the next talk, which was by Michelle Tamala who was looking at how to help EAP students become more autonomous and use metacognitive strategies. Finally before lunch, I also attended Alan Maley’s talk, Ten great educators and their legacy.

After lunch, I had planned to attend the ELTJ debate on teacher training but I had been offered an interview slot which clashed with the start of that session. Nevertheless, it was exciting being interviewed! (I was going to say it was my first live interview, but I guess that award goes to my ELTon award one! Pity I didn’t remember that at the time, then maybe I would have been less nervous…!)

Thursday had an EAP theme running through it – the next talk I attended was ‘You tell me! Practical ideas for student led tasks in ESAP’ by Anne Heaton of Coventry University who she talked about making general English for Academic Purposes classes more subject specific by using students’ own knowledge within tasks, and I went from that to “How to optimise tutorial time: the 20 minute fix” by David Jay of Anglia Ruskin University.

Finally, I attended the Panel on Native Speakerism – it seemed the obvious thing to do after the morning’s plenary! It was interesting to hear about the issue from a range of perspectives. I was very shocked to learn that Christopher Graham had received hate mail (of the “You are betraying your tribe” variety) for supporting the TEFLEquity movement. I suppose I always like to think that people might have got over being so ridiculous by 2016. The truth is, in our profession, the battle is yet young.

I didn’t attend any evening events on Thursday evening, was exhausted funnily enough! And my apartment had a bathtub…

Friday

Friday was another lovely day, full of the spontaneity that makes IATEFL, well, IATEFL! I started with Tyson Seburn’s talk on learner-sourced visuals for higher level texts and then took a break from the EAP theme with Dita Phillips’s talk, “I’m a non-native speaker teacher, hear me roar!”  I nearly didn’t get in – first I sat on the floor and then the ushers tried to chase me and some lovely person gave up their seat for me and exited! Thank you, whoever you are!

After that, I really wanted to go to Sarah Milligan and Patrick Curry’s talk but finally opted for the MaW SIG Open Forum, after all I am a member! It was great to hear the summing up of the year, as well as about their future plans. Their scholarship (in collaboration with OUP) winner also said a few words, which was nice. Finally, I won one of the raffle prizes. 🙂  The SIG are recruiting new committee members and I am tempted to put in for the deputy publications role, running out of time though!

After lunch, I returned to the theme of EAP with Michelle Hunter who spoke on the topic of “Demanding High in ELT – silently” and followed it with the follow-up workshop to Silvana’s plenary  – couldn’t miss it! As you would expect, the turn-out filled a good-size hall! The time went very quickly, too quickly really, but the discussion was fruitful. I think/hope lots of people have gone away from IATEFL thinking about how they can make a difference. I know I have!

Then it was break-time and I met up with my tutors from Leeds Beckett and a handful of Leeds Beckett students past and present. It was lovely. The final talk I attended on Friday was that of my M.A. tutor Heather Buchanan and her long-time friend Julie Norton, a tutor at the University of Leicester. It was “What makes an outstanding coursebook? The publisher’s perspective”there was a lot of interesting information but not enough time. Hopefully they can say a little more about it in a future webinar…

That was all the conference sessions for the day, so off I went to Wagamama’s to grab a bite before the Pecha Kucha. Two other delegates had the same idea, one of whom I “know from online” and so we wound up having a lovely dinner together quite unexpectedly. This is one of the things I love about IATEFL! I thoroughly enjoyed both the dinner and the Pecha Kucha. It must be a real thrill to do one!

Other highlights of the day included picking up my annual Black Cat publisher bag! 😉 And also discussing ideas for future IATEFL talks with Sandy and getting an idea for a project that may well keep me going for years!

Saturday

Saturday began with snow, which was rather a shock! Fortunately by the time we made our way over to the ICC, it had stopped.

Scott Thornbury did the final morning plenary – 1966 and all that: a critical history of ELT. I missed the session straight after the plenary because I was saying goodbye to some people but then I went to “What is this thing called Academic English Language Proficiency?” which was really interesting! All about conceptual frameworks for competency and Dr Pamela Humphrey’s idea for one that combines all the ones she has read about. The last talk I went to was Damian Williams’ talk on language development for teachers, which was about integrating language development into teacher development.

Emerging from the bubble, walking in the sunlight after getting back to Sheffield and the real world (feeling somewhat bizarre after 4.5 days of intensive conferencing) followed. And that was the end.

Except…yesterday evening, I finally got round to putting the registered blogger badge on my blog! (Along with the TEFLEquity supporter one that I now proudly sport!) You can add one to your website or blog too, see this page to find out how. For other ideas of how to get involved have a look at this page.

My final IATEFL-related acts for the weekend were sorting this blog post out and writing a post that was my way of continuing the Native Speakerism issue. (It’s ok, I haven’t spent all day on the computer, I also went for a lovely little 12k run in the sunshine!) Now it’s back to the real world, but carrying all the motivation and buzz that IATEFL never fails to supply.

Thank you, IATEFL, for a fabulous few days and see you again next year, I hope!! (Meanwhile, I need to put my project into action! And hopefully also catch up with a few of the sessions that were recorded that I missed but wanted to attend…)