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

Posts tagged ‘conference’

IH AMT conference 2016

From Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th January, I had the pleasure of attending my third IH DoS conference, or the AMT conference as it’s now known: Academic Management & Trainers. As always, the conference was a very useful weekend, not least for the networking. It was a great opportunity to meet with representatives from across IH Poland since I started as the Director of Studies at IH Bydgoszcz:

IH Poland contigent at the IH AMT conference 2016

Monica Green‘s presentation about how to maintain positivity and morale in our schools was one of the highlights of the first day. A key point was that the focus should be across the school, including support staff, not just in the staffroom. As she said, “You’re paying the same whether teachers are happy or not, but it’s nicer to work somewhere everyone is happy.” Here are a few of her tips:

  • Morale has to start with managers. If they’re positive, their team is more likely to be.
  • Simple things make a big difference: say ‘Good morning’. Be warm, kind and considerate, show an interest, and listen to people.
  • Be approachable. If you have your own office, leave your door open whenever you can.
  • Make the physical environment pleasant to be in.
  • People who eat together work better together.
  • Make a particular effort with THAT member of staff, rather than avoiding them and hoping they’ll go away.
  • Build relationships based on trust and fairness. Be genuine and believable. Be consistent.
  • Give credit. Show respect. Define your expectations. And avoid micro-management!
  • And if all else fails, great wifi is a good way to increase morale 🙂

The change in name led to a slight change in focus, with two tracks of afternoon sessions for day one, one covering management issues, and one focussing more on training. It was a difficult choice, but I ended up spending all of my time in the training sessions.

It made a pleasant change to hear Paula de Nagy speaking up for pre-service courses, and highlighting all the ways they really do help teachers, rather than focussing on all the problems with these short courses, which is all too often the dialogue we hear.

Magnus Coney shared some of the things he’s learnt from three books. All of them sound interesting, and the first was mentioned a few times during the conference. [These are all affiliate links, so I’ll get a few pennies if you buy through them.]

  • Visible Learning by John Hattie.
    A meta-analysis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement in learning in general, including a ranking of which factors have the most impact on learning. The two excerpts from the list we saw during the conference included some surprises! Hattie has also published a couple of other books following up on the original.
  • Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham
    An explanation of how and why students learn, courtesy of a cognitive scientist.
  • Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger and Mark A. McDaniel
    Magnus shared a few interesting tips from here about how to help students remember things. One of the most interesting was that students learn things better if they’ve been tested on them before learning. I assume this is because they notice what they don’t know and are therefore motivated to fill in the gaps – a definite argument for test-teach-test! Another idea which I’ve got personal experience of is that things which are harder to learn stick better because you’ve processed them more.

By far the most useful talk on day two of the conference was by Jon Hird. His title was ‘Reaching every student in the classroom: dyslexia and learning English’. I’d highly recommend heading over to his blog and downloading the handout to find out more about what causes dyslexia, and how you can adapt materials so that they are more accessible for dyslexic students. Spoiler: dyslexia doesn’t just mean problems with reading and writing, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the person is not intelligent.

Day three brought my first experience of an Open Space event, ably coordinated by Josh Round. Here is a brief description of the format. We started by suggesting ideas/posing questions on post-it notes, which were then loosely grouped. I ended up in a group with questions about supporting newly-qualified teachers. Each group had a secretary who summarised the discussion, and all notes were shared on the IH management pages after the conference. It was a fascinating way to deal with issues pertinent to us, and to remind us that we’re not alone, and many other people have had the same problems as us!

Looking forward to next year already!

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An announcement: Innovate ELT 2016

InnovateELT conference confirmed speakers: Ben Goldstein, Chia Suan Chong, Jamie Keddie and Sandy Millin

It is a huge honour for me to announce that I have been invited to speak at the second InnovateELT conference, which takes place in Barcelona on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th May 2016. It’s organised jointly by OxfordTEFL and ELTjam. It will be the first time I’ve been an invited speaker at a conference, and it’s incredibly flattering to see my name up there with Ben, Chia and Jamie, who are all people I look up to and have learnt a lot from.

The conference itself is something quite different from other ELT conferences, which is another reason I’m excited to take part. Ceri Jones wrote about a live class she taught with students during the first conference – one of the features of InnovateELT is the involvement of students, not just teachers, in the whole experience. Another idea is ‘mini plenaries’, just 10 minutes long (here’s Scott Thornbury’s rehearsal for his 2015 plenary). Topics covered also ranged into more unusual areas than standard conferences, including mental health and social inclusion in ELT and English for the Zombie Apocalypse. You can get an idea of the general atmosphere at last year’s conference by watching this video and find out all of the talks which were included by visiting the ELTjam website.

The theme for the 2016 conference is ‘Grassroots: Power to the teacher!’ If you want to get involved, you can find out more via the iELT 2016 website or the Eventbrite listing. Early bird tickets are available until 30th November 2015.

The call for papers has also gone out, with the following options:

  1. 60-minute session with learners
    These sessions will involve you teaching a class of 6–10 Spanish-speaking, B1/B2-level learners observed by delegates. The session should include opportunities for feedback and discussion of the lesson. The room will have an Internet connection and a projector. The students should be included in the feedback sections, which can be in groups or plenary or a combination.
  2. 30-minute workshop/talk
    These sessions will be in rooms with Internet connection and a projector.
  3. 10-minute plenary
    These will take place in the garden. You will have a microphone but no other technical aids. We are requesting submissions from people within and outside the ELT community.
  4. 5-minute pitch
    These will take place in front of a panel of experts from the world of publishing, EdTech and business. If you have a great idea, this is the time to pitch it. All pitches will receive 5 minutes of feedback from the panel.

You have until 1st December 2016 to submit your talk, and you get free entry to the conference if you are accepted for type 1, 2 or 3.

Finally, you can follow all of the announcements related to the conference via Twitter and facebook.

I hope to see some of you there!

IH Teachers’ Online Conference (TOC) 7

IH TOC 7 banner

The dates: Friday 8th and Saturday 9th May 2015.

The place: the internet.

The event: the 7th IH Teachers’ Online Conference.

On Friday, a series of 10-minute presentations, including one by yours truly taking you on a tour of IH schools

On Saturday, sessions dedicated to teaching languages other than English, including French, Spanish, Russian and German.

Here’s the full programme, including information on how to join the sessions, and the timetable (with a tab at the bottom to change from Friday to Saturday’s session).

There will be recordings of all of the sessions available after the event.

And if you can’t wait, why not watch a few of the presentations from previous incarnations of the conference: IHTOC60 (for the 60th anniversary of IH) and IH TOC6.

Five ways to raise your professional profile (IH TOC6)

For those who don’t know IH TOC is the regular International House Teacher’s Online Conference. This time round the conference has returned to the successful 10-minute presentation format of IHTOC60, which celebrated the 60th anniversary of IH.

My presentation offered advice on how to raise your professional profile. You can watch the video below:

Feel free to ask me questions about any of the ideas, or to ask for more advice. I’m always happy to help! You can also watch all of the other talks.

IHTOC May 2014 Raising your professional profile Sandy Millin

IATEFL Harrogate 2014 – a summary

[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!]

My first DoS conference

Every January International House organises a conference for Directors of Studies (DoS) from across the IH network. I’d heard about it, followed the tweet stream and watched videos from previous conferences, but this year, I finally got the chance to go, and it was worth the wait!

The conference took place from 9th-11th January 2014 at Devonport House, Greenwich, London, a beautiful venue right next to Greenwich Park. It was a flying visit to London, so the only photo I managed to take in the area was of the ship in a bottle outside, so you’ll have to take my word about the location.

Ship in a bottle - Greenwich ParkThe conference was kicked off by Lucy Horsefield and Monica Green talking about how to show students their progress. There was a lot of discussion of different ideas from DoSes around the world. One area I’d like to think more about is how to help general English students to see their progress, as I often feel we neglect them somewhat in favour of young learners and business students, where we have to be accountable to the people paying for the course, or exam students who are working towards a clearly defined goal. What do you do at your schools for these students?

Chris Ozog did a session about ‘Teacher Development and the DoS’ which I talked about for the IH World YouTube channel. (Sorry for mispronouncing your surname Chris!)

Other speakers from the first day included Peter Medgyes on native and non-native speaker teachers, Nick Kiley entertaining us with anecdotes and lessons about management from his experience of being managed, and the team from ELT Teacher2Writer introducing their training courses and their database of teachers interested in doing writing work, which I’ve now signed up for.

Jane Harding da Rosa finished off the day with a great talk on fostering learner autonomy. I particularly liked her emphasis on demonstrating the tasks you want students to do in their own time by dedicating class time to them. We can’t expect students to take responsibility for their own learning if they don’t know how to do it. She also drew a couple of neurons and showed how everything a student does in English strengthens the connection between them, by drawing a line, then another on top, then another on top, until there was a very thick line linking the two. Simple, but very effective (and better when you see it than when you read about it!) – definitely one I’ll be using with my classes.

Day two was reserved for guest speakers. Hugh Dellar told us twenty things he’d learnt in twenty years of teaching, which was very entertaining, and fed nicely into Andrew Walkley’s session of later in the day. This was the one which I think I took the most away from. Andrew discussed  language-focussed teacher development, and how we should emphasise language awareness more in our teacher training. He showed us examples of language awareness tasks like ranking words in order of their frequency, and writing example sentences with language we might teach. The latter was particularly interesting; for example, ‘beard’ is much more likely to be used in a sentence like ‘Have you seen that guy with the beard?’ than ‘He has a beard’, and yet we’re much more likely to teach the second sentence. Andrew pointed out that when we think quickly we tend to come up with the easiest possible example (‘He has a beard’) because it’s easily accessible. If we focus on language and examples during our planning, we’re more likely to give students chunks and sentences which they will actually need and encounter. He advocated a change in emphasis in both teacher training and school culture in general, from activities and grammar towards language. One point which particularly resonated with me was that in (preparation for) observations we tend to focus on procedure rather than the language which we expect students might produce, or which we could introduce to them. This related back to Hugh’s recent blog posts about exploiting lexical self-study material (part one, two, three). It is important to remind ourselves that ultimately we are language teachers, and language should be at the heart of what we do, something which we often forget in our quest to find the ‘best’ activities or adopt the ‘most suitable’ methodology. They have inspired me to try and find out more about the lexical approach, and to try and incorporate more language awareness into our fledgling teacher training at IH Sevastopol.

Patsy M. Lightbown, Maureen McGarvey and Fiona Dunlop also gave sessions on day two. I realised I really need to read ‘How Languages are Learned’ (no idea how I got through Delta without it!)

The IH World Quiz Night finished off the second day, and was a great example of how a conference social event should be run (thanks Shaun, Nick and Mike!). I was on a team with representatives from IH Bristol, IH Manchester, IH Newcastle, IH Brno, and IH World, and I really enjoyed it, even though we didn’t win.

On day three, Robin Walker gave us a three-hour workshop on priorities and practice for teaching pronunciation, the slides for which are available on his blog. It was an interesting comparison of the differing pronunciation requirements for students who are going to be speaking mostly to natives, and mostly to non-natives. It also links nicely to the ideas of English as a Lingua Franca and the ELFpron blog of Katy Davies and Laura Patsko, who was sitting next to me during the workshop.

The final afternoon of the conference was ‘speed dating’, a very entertaining, highly-paced event, full of great ideas. It involved about 22 presenters, divided into three sessions of 7-8 presenters each, giving 10-minute presentations five or six times over the course of an hour. My presentation, about online professional development, is available on my blog. Here is the video I recorded to introduce it (YouTube could have chosen a better still for it!):

The whole conference was a very enjoyable experience, but as always with conferences, the best thing about it was being able to connect with passionate teachers from around the world, like Chris Ozog, Kylie Malinowska and Laura Patsko in the photo below.

Sandy, Chris, Kylie and LauraRoll on 2015!

 

Ten blogs in ten minutes (IH TOC 60)

I’ve just finished my presentation at the International House Teachers’ Online Conference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the IH organisation. All of the presentations are 10 minutes long, and there are 60 presentations in total. All of the videos are (will be) available on the blog. There’s something for everyone!

IH 60th anniversary

For my presentation I had the difficult job of choosing 10 blogs to share with the world. I decided to choose blogs which I go back to again and again and/or which lead readers to other great bloggers. Sorry if I had to miss you out! Here is the presentation, handout and the video. Ten blogs in ten minutes (IH TOC 60)

Thanks to Mike Griffin for inspiring me to do this by celebrating his PLN.

Note: I made a little mistake with the ELTsquared blog, which is actually at http://www.eltsquared.co.uk – sorry Chris!

Happy birthday IH!

Update

Kevin’s blog, The Other Things Matter, has now moved to wordpress: https://theotherthingsmatter.wordpress.com/

The blog starter list has also moved.

Teaching English British Council interview – IATEFL 2013

Just before IATEFL started I was interviewed by Ann Foreman and Paul Braddock for the TeachingEnglish British Council facebook page as part of a series of interviews with those of us who have been awarded ‘Blog of the Month‘ (the blue badge at the top of the blog). Each of us will be asked three or four questions suggested by members of the TeachingEnglish British Council facebook page. Here is my interview, talking about IATEFL, building and retaining vocabulary and helping students learn to love English:

International House Newcastle Personal Study Programme (IATEFL 2013 presentation)

My presentation for IATEFL Liverpool 2013 is an introduction to the Personal Study Programme (PSP) which we run at IH Newcastle. It was part of the Learner Autonomy SIG day.

If you couldn’t be there, or you want to relive it, here is a recorded version:

You can also read about PSP on the IH Newcastle website.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.

Note: thank you to Amy Brown for helping me to put the presentation together.

Update:
A few bloggers have very kindly responded to my presentation. I will post the links here if you are interested. Please let me know if I have missed any:

English UK North

The English UK North conference took place at my school, IH Newcastle, on 6th October 2012. I presented on ‘Twitter for Professional Development’.

Here are all of the links I shared during my presentation:

You can see the slides from the presentation here:


(for some strange reason, slideshare has changed some of the formatting so a couple of slides look a little odd – apologies)

For a more detailed explanation of how to make the most of Twitter, look here.

And if you join, please let me know by tweeting me @sandymillin

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