Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

[I wrote the first half of this post back in May last year, and now that it’s February 2015, I thought it was probably time to finish it! The first sentence is still true though, so I won’t change it] 🙂

IATEFL Harrogate was over a month ago now, and I’m still digesting what I learnt there. In this post I’ll attempt to summarise my conference experience and the talks I attended based on tweets and blogposts from the week.

Wednesday 2nd April

English and economic development – David Graddol’s plenary

David gave a lot of evidence about the relationship between English learning and economic development. The quotes above were the most interesting, because it questions the standards we set for school leavers, and the reasons why we require potential employees to be able to speak English. What is the point of training learners to a standard that isn’t good enough to get them a job? And/or what is the point of forcing students to learn more of the language than they’ll ever need to be employed? And is English just another piece of paper to show you’re qualified, or is it actually a necessary skill? You can watch a recording of the plenary.

Due to the dodgy wifi, I blogged the rest of the talks I went to on Wednesday:

I also liked these tweets from Hugh Dellar, because the first one summarises how I felt there too. I don’t drink though, so I’ve only experienced the second one via other people’s delicate heads! 😉

 Thursday 3rd April

It was my birthday so I decided to have a slow start! 🙂 Ela Wassell started my day off beautifully with a card which she’d got signed by lots of people there. Thanks Ela! My IATEFL 2014 birthday card I Speak Meme – Nina Jerončič How to use memes in the classroom, in the talk with the best title of the conference. She might be writing a guest post for me summarising the talk, although since I asked her a long time ago and forgot to remind her, I’m hoping that she’s still willing to do it!

How does the silent way work in the classroom – Roslyn Young ‘The Silent Way’ explained in such a way that I finally understood it!

Adam Simpson and I were interviewed by Ann Foreman and Paul Braddock from British Council Teaching English. We spoke about blogging and offered advice to those of you who(‘d like to) blog.

Mark Hancock’s talk ‘Pronouncing meaning – rhythm and stress games was full by the time I arrived, but he’s shared the materials on his site.

Practical pronunciation ideas for teaching in an ELF context – Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson Lots of things you can do to help your students deal with English as a Lingua Franca, in both multilingual and monolingual classrooms.

While I’m on pronunciation, Richard Cauldwell’s name was mentioned a few times during the day, and his book ‘Phonology for Listening‘ [affiliate link] was one of my birthday presents (thanks again Ela!). When I’ve read it, I’ll share my impressions, but until then, here’s what Hugh Dellar has to say:

Mike McCarthy ‘Collocation and the learner: wading into the depths’ was on at the same time as Laura and Katy. Luckily, Cambridge ELT were tweeting some of the highlights:

I found it particularly interesting that these mistakes could be divided by level:

I finished the day with Lizzie Pinard’s talk ‘Bridging the gap between materials and the English-speaking environment in which she described the process of putting together materials to help students take advantage of studying in an English-speaking environment. She later won a well-deserved ELTon for the same materials.

Other tweets which caught my eye on Thursday:

Friday 4th April

I had another slow start on Friday and missed a lot of sessions. The first one I went to was Emina Tuzovic’s ‘Spilling or Spelling? Why do Arabic EFL learners stand out?‘ Emina shared some very practical tips and activities for helping Arabic learners with their spelling, which was something I’d been looking for since I realised they had a particular problem not shared by any other L1 background. Emina was kind enough to write a guest post on my blog sharing ideas from her talk.

I took a break to prepare for my presentation. It’s available as a recording on my blog: ‘Stepping into the real world: transitioning listening‘. I was happy to see so many people there:

Lots of wonderful people at my IATEFL 2014 conference presentation

Lots of wonderful people at my IATEFL 2014 conference presentation

Cecilia Lemos taught us about ‘Making lesson observation a teacher’s best friend, not the enemy’, with a very interesting idea about a menu of observation tasks, which I’m looking forward to reading more about when she finds time to put it on her blog 🙂 In the meantime, you can read Lizzie Pinard’s summary of the session.

I used to work with Amy Brown at IH Newcastle, so it was a no-brainer that I would attend her talk ‘Reading for pleasure: a path to learner autonomy?’, especially because it is about extending the Personal Study Programme into a new area – PSP was my IATEFL topic in 2013. Amy discussed a project she implemented in partnership with The Reader Organisation, where trained readers came to the school to run guided reading groups. Again, Lizzie blogged about Amy’s talk.

My last ‘proper’ talk of the day was Pete Sharma introducing the Vocabulary Organizer: a new way to organize lexis’ [affiliate link to Amazon – I’ll make a few pennies if you buy via this link]. This was my only publisher talk of the conference, and I got a free copy of the organizer. 🙂 I really like the fact that there are two separate sections in it for ‘vocabulary to recognise’ and ‘vocabulary to use’. It’s specifically designed for EAP (English for Academic Purposes) students, but I think it might be useful for other students too. You can see Pete’s slides on slideshare.

That night, I was lucky enough to be one of the speakers for the Pecha Kucha evening, which was a fabulous experience. You can find out what Pecha Kucha is and watch the recording here – it’s a very entertaining hour, even if I do say so myself 🙂

Saturday 5th April

Sugata Mitra’s plenary generated a huge amount of debate, which I’m not going to get into here (as I haven’t got round to reading a lot of it yet!) Instead, I’ll give you a link to said plenary, and let you Google ‘Sugata Mitra IATEFL 2014‘ to find out what happened next…

The next talk was a reunion of sorts, since it was given by Teti Dragas, one of my CELTA tutors, who I hadn’t seen since I asked for advice a few weeks after the course finished. Her talk ‘Exploring culture in teacher education: reflections on a corpus-based study’ was based on a module done the MA TESOL at Durham University. In it, she compared Chinese attitudes to teaching and training to those in the UK, and the implications of this on the MA TESOL programme. She recommended moving away from assessed teaching practice towards a more general culture of reflective practice.

My final talk of the conference was another reunion, this time with Alex Cann, who did his Delta at IH Newcastle while I was teaching there. He was presenting on a similar topic to me, ‘Helping high-level learners understand native speaker conversations’. He shared some interesting activities to help students deal with pronunciation issues and activate their knowledge before starting to listen. He also shared my favourite video of the conference, demonstrating the importance of pronunciation and listening:

I wish I’d been able to go to this talk too:

You can see the full text of Anthony’s talk ‘The place is here and the time is now’ on his blog.

Jackie Kay, a poet, finished off the conference with a lovely selection of readings from her work and stories from her life. It was livestreamed but not recorded. Here’s an example of her reading Old Tongue, about losing her accent, so you can hear her lovely accent 🙂

Other people’s blogging

IATEFL runs a scheme where anyone can register as a blogger, regardless of whether they are at the conference or not. This creates a great picture of the conference as a whole, and promotes a lot of discussion. Here is the full list of Harrogate Online registered bloggers. It’s definitely worth taking a look – there are a lot of posts about the conference, and it’s a good place to start looking for other blogs you might want to read in general.

TeachingEnglish highlighted Lizzie Pinard’s coverage of the conference as being particularly good, and I’d second that! You might also enjoy Nicola Prentis talking about a glut of ELT celebrity encounters.

Not done yet…

As I write this [back in May!] I’m over a month behind on blog reading, and still have at least three talks I missed during the conference which I’d like to watch the videos of, with more probably being added to this list as I catch up with my reading. I still have one or two posts in my drafts which I’ll add to this summary as I publish them. I’ve also asked a few speakers to write guest posts based on their talks, which I’ll add too, so there’ll definitely be more to come from this year’s conference. Watch this space!

[February 2015 update: I think I’ve shared all of the planned posts, and I’ve caught up on my blog reading, but I still haven’t managed to watch the videos I want to, starting with Russ Mayne’s ‘Guide to pseudo-science in English language teaching‘ which I’m still hearing about regularly despite it being nearly a year since the conference. Russ, the buzz hasn’t died down at all!]

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Comments on: "IATEFL Harrogate 2014 – a summary" (3)

  1. Thanks for this Sandy. So much of the conference just flies by but I definitely remember the plenaries as well as the pleasure of signing your birthday card.

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  2. Wow, it sounds like an absolute whirlwind of a conference! What a brilliant summary, thanks. I have managed to open about 8 other windows from this one post, so I shall be a bit naughty and peruse those in what remains of my lunch break.
    The Publisher of my old list, English Language and Linguistics, actually attended the conference for Routledge, and she always meets loads of lovely ELT authors there every year. The more I read about ELT, the more I am fascinated, so perhaps I’ll try and attend next year’s!

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