Innovate ELT (May 2016)

A month ago I had the pleasure of attending the Innovate ELT conference in Barcelona. It’s been a bit hectic since I got back, so this is the first chance I’ve had to share a few of the highlights of the conference for me.

Innovate ELT breaks from the traditional format of many conferences. Two of the things that I particularly liked were the mini plenaries, which anybody could apply to do, and the live lessons.

The mini plenary which I found particularly thought-provoking was by Laura Patsko, whose title was Whose English is it anyway? She’s shared a recording and the full text of her talk in this post. Among other things, it drew on her personal experience as somebody who’s lived in different English-speaking countries, as well as on her research into English as a Lingua Franca. I’d recommend taking a look.

You can also watch a recording of my own five-minute plenary on Five things I’ve learnt from five years of blogging.

Most of the live lessons during the conference were done with local students, with the conference goers watching the whole lesson, then discussing it after the students had left. In a slightly different format, Ceri Jones taught a lesson of Welsh for beginners in which all of the people in the room were the students. The session was an hour long, with some reflection before we started on our expectations of what would happen in the lesson and how much we thought we would learn, followed by the lesson itself, and ending with reflections on our experience. I’ve taken part (and given!) many lessons like this, but never in Welsh and never at a conference. I think it’s vital for language teachers to put themselves in their learners’ shoes whenever they can. This is especially important if they’re teaching very low levels to realise just how much processing goes on to be able to take in the information from the teacher, and how tiring it can be to work in another language for an extended period of time. Thanks for the opportunity to do this again, Ceri.

The most practical session I went to was by Chia Suan Chong. She shared a series of activities for working on intercultural communication skills, for example on how to identify and deal with misunderstandings, modify your language when speaking to people with different levels of English and decide what name/title to call somebody by when you meet them. You can find all of the worksheets on the Cornelsen site, to accompany their new series Simply Business.

As a bonus extra, here’s a video recorded during the conference by Chia for Business English UK in which I describe three things I think of when I think of the UK.

Take a look at their Twitter feed and website to find out more about studying Business English in the UK, and to follow the travels of Farringdon Bear.

Thank you again to ELTjam and OxfordTEFL for organising the conference.

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