Friday, October 28, 2016

My reflections about the 2106 IATEFL Poland conference

Conference Notes
IATEFL Poland conference, 16-18 September 2016, Szczecin

A good conference is like strenuous exercise: it makes you stretch. However, conference goers should keep in mind many factors when choosing presentations: stretching out of their comfort zone, relevance, and professional development. The talks and workshops at IATEFL Poland offered a broad, well-balanced selection. I chose Business English and professional development slots, but I jumped out of my zone, too.

Twenty seconds is all a teacher of 4-year-olds gets to transition from one activity to the next, otherwise the little learners scatter like autumn leaves. I watched “Musical Babies,” a live English lesson demonstration with pre-schoolers. Anna Rattenbury changed activities with speed and skill — she was supremely organized. According to one study, most teachers who attend conferences become more aware of developments in ELT contexts other than their own. True enough for me: I learned how cleverly YL teachers plan their lessons.

Back in Business English, I found one thing in common with Mandy Welfare — we both love teaching lower level business people, and we were the only ones in her session who felt this way! The key points are allowing as much speaking as possible, and motivating with bite-sized successes. Later I heard Evan Frendo provide easy ways to contruct discrete items (multiple choice and gapfills) — finally! I’ve always wondered how it’s done, and now I can hardly wait to do it myself.

Then came loads of fun with Anna Podlewska, who teaches medical students, but her games could easily be adapted to other ESP areas. For example, there was a derivative of musical chairs, based on the teacher reading out true or false statements about diseases — very funny, and the subject matter could easily be finance, marketing, etc. Another hilarious game was a dialog cut into strips and distributed to individuals in the class, who called out the statements on their strip one by one, while the others strove to find the appropriate reply.

Professional development is still exciting, even if not the newest star in the sky. I was reminded by Marjorie Rosenberg to wake up my blog and make it work for me. Also, Magda Zawadzka provided a smorgasbord of tips and tricks that ranged between paper-and-scissors preparation and a few clicks for online resources. These may not be new ideas, but small changes make a teacher more professional, too.

In his Sunday morning plenary, Jamie Keddie extended and contracted his leg asking, “What am I doing?” Answer: “Szeczin!” (stretching). At the 2016 IATEFL Poland conference, I really stretched out, too. No doubt I’ll do the same next year in Bielsko-Biata.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IATEFL Hungary's Business English Special Interest Group in action again!
The next Business English ‘extra’ Creative Cafe event will be held on Friday 22 May, 2015, 4-6pm at the Libra Foreign Language Bookshop, Kölcsey u. 2. in Budapest.
The event is two-fold. The main part is a workshop with Tapolcai-Malaczkov Szilvia.
In the second part, we will be focusing on the 20 June BESIG/ event, to clarify what our role there will be, and the plans we have for autumn 2015. This is a chance for participants to join in, get involved, and make suggestions to shape our network!

Presentation skills: Involving the audience
In this workshop my aim is to share with fellow teachers the experience I have gathered while teaching presentation skills to business college students. I’ll concentrate on the major challenge that students seem to face while preparing a persuasive presentation: how to win over the audience. This session will include how to involve the audience from the start, and ways of promoting interaction during the presentation. By the end of the workshop we will have several practical solutions on how to involve and win over our audience.  
Szilvia teaches at Külker, the Budapest Business School, College of International Management. Besides holding a degree in English language teaching, she is also about to graduate as an Economist.

Others coming along to this event – for both the Presentation skills workshop, and the discussion in the second part – include Jasmina Sadovska, Mary Sousa, Philip Saxon and Rachel Appleby. We had a great turn-out for our March get-together, and are optimistic for another this time, given the wide coverage this topic has! It’ll be relevant not only within Business English teaching contexts, but also for adults, and secondary school teachers. Do join us!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The chasm and the colander

Colander in my ELT kitchen

Burnout, Biomimicry, use of students' first language, and future technology in teaching: like fresh
apples, they're filling the colander of my IATEFL Hungary Veszprém experience.
Struggling to shake the colander and decide what's good for my practice, I muddle off to my
lessons without even leafing through the handouts or browsing the IATEFL conference blog.
No time! Zero prep! Tired from schlepping my backpack between bus stops, office buildings, and
I am angry! What's wrong? Have I attended too many conferences? Am I just too nose-to-the-grindstone to change the way I apply materials? Why this chasm between the excitement of
plenary talks and the execution of (nonexistent) lesson plans?
No more! Change was in the slogan of Veszprém, so let it be mine as well.
Trying to get a handle on the colander
Two columns: ­ left column, conference topics; right column, my current students
Match the topics in the left column with the names in the right column. Rather arbitrary,
but at least it's a start, and it's familiar, like the matching exercises in ELT course books.

Concept questions (Rachel Appleby "The Joy of Discovery") --> ­ my pre­int systech learning present perfect
Green teaching (Jane Petring's plenary) ---> ­ my teenager heading for a school leaving language exam
Turnabout translation (Philip Kerr "Translate Your Coursebook") ->­ my internal auditors who are learning to translate their findings into English
Creating personalized google maps with students (Nagy Nóra - Digital Reading) --> my IT consultant making a map about his clients
YouTube genres (Barbara Bujtás) --> my logistics manager learning phrases for reacting to news ('DumbWays to Die')

After this, maybe I'll try to digest Clandfield's exposé on technology and Komlósi Edit's research in emotional intelligence. Then I'll feel I've done the 24th IATEFL Hungary conference justice!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reflecting about this week in teaching

This week I am reflecting about my teaching. Unlike most of my posts, which describe concrete activities, this reflection mirrors ideas.

Idea One: bring the concept of cautious, intelligent Internet usage into my own life and my lesson plans
Idea Two: keep the balance between print reading and reading online/onscreen. And: read, read, and read some more!

I attended the Loras Network 2nd annual workshop last Saturday, September 20, 2014. The topic was technology, and the presenters meandered through it, stopping on the way at
  • the beauties of blogging
  • digital citizenship
  • computer-based examinations
  • blended learning
  • how to read digitally
After absorbing abstract ideas, I carried out approximately 20 hours of teaching, but more thoughtfully than before. No sudden insertion of digital citizenship material into Tuesday afternoon's private lesson (at a shopping center). Instead, a new self-awareness is reflected when I teach my students.   

November event about edtech

This will be great!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Update on coursebooks

These are my notes from an IATEFL webinar by Lindsay Clandfield on 21 June, 2014

What's hot and what's not in coursebooks
An IATEFL webinar by Lindsay Clandfield, 21 June 2014
  1. Methodology

HOT: Integrated skills, lots of speaking, process writing, pairwork, study skills, multi-strand syllabus
Up to now: The „Big Books”. New English File, Face2Face, Language Leader, Cutting Edge, Speak Out etc.. old: Streamline, Headway (now breaking away from them)
NOT. Adherence to only one method, do the book only one way, minimal stimulus (dogme type), decontextualised drills
  1. Language Systems – Grammar and Vocabulary

HOT: linear grammar syllabus, lexical work, „extra” vocabulary sections, pronunciation suprasegmentals, pseudo-inductive grammar, text-based exercises, extra grammar at back of book, extra vocab exercises, rules, corpus-based
NOT: Culturally specific lexical sets, obscure lexical sets, grammar without context, input flooding (a text with far more of the target structure than would normally occur)
Very small changes in grammar
  • have got – is it worth it?
  • can for ability: corpora say can for permission is more common
  • past simple . how to deal with it
  • time expressions – as grammar/vocabulary overlap
  • keywords and patterns of gr/voc, e.g. not teach read, rather /read a newspaper/read a website etc.
  1. Skills

HOT: speak in every lesson, fluency in writing, integrated skills, developing skills
English as an International Language (EIL, ELF) International accents, authentic audio and video, spoken grammar, the corpus “stamp of approval” (on CB cover, proves they checked a corpus to be sure people really use the lexis in the CB)
Life skills, competencies, critical thinking
CEF still hot? - levels system used globally, can-do statements, self evaluation, outcomes based, learner autonomy portfolios, diaries
Digital – videos, support sites, eworkbooks, CD Rom/DVD Rom (but will disappear and be tablet-online based soon), exam generators, learning platforms, teacher resource CD, IWB software
  1. Coursebook topics

Around the world (weddings, birthdays, shopping etc.)
Health memes (GM, food, water)
Urban life
Lifestyle questionnaires
People who live long (Okinawa)
Busting stereotypes of the English
Mobile phones
The Internet
CLIL (watered down)
Still not allowed: PARSNIP (Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, Isms, Pork
Comics and funny drawings (because teachers hate bad drawings)
  1. The Future

See Knewton Education surveys – analytics. Future CB – gamification, Big Data, learning management, adaptive learning
6 Trends (see Philip Kerr in
  1. no more traditional CB – learning platforms insteajd
  2. increase adaptive learning technology
  3. discrete vocab-grammar functional language, phonology
  4. customizable content
  5. assessment will be major – but as discrete items, not skills work (this enables software)
  6. CEF level descriptors will be explicit
  1. Miscellaneous notes

Evan Frendo has a coursebook on Technical English about dark tourism and PARSNIP (Pearson)
Dogme vs CB debate – they have agreed to disagree
IATEFL's Learning Technologies SIG is worth watching
Notes by Mary Sousa