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

Posts tagged ‘IATEFL 2013’

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:


Of course! Using the coursebook AND engaging with emergent language – Rachael Roberts (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Rachael Roberts’ talk, taken from my tweets.

Coursebooks and emergent language don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Learning is located in the interactivity between teachers and learners, and between learners themselves. (Teaching Unplugged). To counter Dogme, @jimscriv say it is fairly drastic to dump materials and syllabus and wander naked through the Dogme forest. But Rachael also says you don’t need to go in like a tank either, with so many materials you don’t connect with students. Materials should not be the tail that wags the dog says @thornburyscott, but doesn’t mean you can’t use them. Structure can be very helpful though – we like to have an idea of a series of steps. We might have a vision of a series of steps leading upwards, but students may not feel this. Might wander off/tunnel vision

Emergent language is the idea that a system can emerge from a lot of smaller interactions, like flocks of birds or snowflakes. Sorry…that was emergence, not emergent language! #iatefl @teflerinha says it’s about having a framework, with interaction between CB/EL. These are key ingredients, which could come from people in the room or materials.


‘Freeing the classroom from third party imported materials empowers both teachers and learners.’ is a quote from Teaching Unplugged. @teflerinha disagrees with the slavery language here.

The first key is in engaging the learners. What is between the learners and the materials? What is in that gap? .@teflerinha showing us an excellent video from her blog from StoryCorps with an interview between a child with Asperger’s and his mum. She says the video is an example of something that isn’t just going to turn up in the classroom, but students can still relate to it. Materials can help students grow and see new things in a different way, in a way that materials-free perhaps can’t. Teachers should mediate the materials, not be mediated by them. We need to make the materials relevant to the students. For example, when monolingual groups are reading about different cultures, they get something they might not with materials-free.
Get students to write letters to themselves in the future using – it will be emailed to them.

The second point is noticing and restructuring. Coursebooks often have lots of them, but you can do more with them. For example, you can turn a coursebook text into a dictogloss/translation. They can see the gap between what they produced/Eng. After listening, students can be asked to notice language which has been used by looking at the transcript. Students could also try some self-recording and transcription tasks. Helps them notice. T can reformulate.

The third point is repeating and recycling. People often complain that coursebooks don’t do enough of this, but impossible to do. To recycle activities, repeat them in different ways, with a different audience/purpose. Listening to a model after doing a task for example. There’s a site called Textivate, which allows you to break up a text. Great for repetition, though not perfect. You can return to the same text later, and do something different with it.

Coursebooks are like recipe books – some people follow them, and some people learn from them and run with it. Rachael Roberts/teflerinha’s website is if you want to see some of her resources.

.@chiasuan now clarifying that she respects coursebook writers and that she learnt a lot from them as a newly-qualified teacher. There are extremes of people who don’t understand how coursebooks/dogme actually work. @irishmikeh says that’s not how writers write: Coursebooks are a tool not a result – that’s not how writers write. As @irishmikeh and @MarjorieRosenbe clarify that. .@hughdellar emphasising recipe idea, that it’s difficult to get to the stage of being a good cook without having internalised recipes. .@elawassell @hughdellar said this means we need to be training people to use materials on their initial courses, not reinvent the wheel

Mark Hancock on the same presentation

Creative pedagogy, language learning and technology – Graham Stanley (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Graham Stanley’s talk, taken from my tweets.

How many people do you see? It’s a creativity test!

Creativity should be a cental part of what you do, not an add-on.

@grahamstanley is focussing on the activity IWB Island in ‘Language Learning with Technology’ from CUP. Learners created their own islands on paper, and @grahamstanley asked them to add e.g. mountains. @grahamstanley scanned them, then traced over them on the computer, so you can then create something like this.

Students created a tourist guide for their own islands. The central island is @grahamstanley’s, which SS travelled too and explored. Students had a copy of a picture of their island, decided on style of government, elected a president and ministers, and chose a currency.
The central island was the location for a lot of fluency games, like ‘werewolf’. Werewolf can be played with 7+ students. The villagers have to eliminate the werewolves, the werewolves eat the villagers. During the day,the werewolves have to pretend to be a villager too. Demonstrates it’s difficult to lie over an extended time. There’s a day phase and a night phase. Everyone closes their eyes. 6 people chosen as werewolves secretly. WWs open eyes. WWs identify other WWs, then choose a victim. Everyone opens eyes, narrator/T points out victims. Villagers identify WWs. While they’re playing, the teacher has to be storyteller. Also notes lang SS using to identify werewolves. To identify WWs, students use sounds they heard to help, and ask questions. Students can produce role cards as villagers. It can be used with many levels – adaptable, language can be changed. You play the game until all of the villagers or all of the werewolves are dead. You can find the rules by searching for ‘werewolf:the game’ on the net.
Rory’s Story Cubes can be used too. There is an app, or you can take the set around the room, ask students to take a photo, then move the dice to the next group. By situating the games in the island, there is an ongoing narrative, and it makes them more real. There’s a continuity.
Graham emphasises that even though he’s written books on technology, he regularly teaches tech-free too. Not always necessary!


Graham subsequently did a workshop for Cambridge English Teacher on the same topic. Andrea Wade wrote a summary of it on her blog.

Bridging the gap: preparing lower-level students for IELTS – Louis Harrison (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Louis Harrison’s talk, taken from my tweets.

Can you match the bridges to their names and identify their countries?


Louis is introducing the ‘Bridge to IELTS’ course to help lower-level learners. Is there an intermediary stage between general English and test preparation? Is it possible to give lower level SS pre-prep? The course fits in with students needs and goals in ‘English for test preparation’.
The course is also designed to help SS to prepare for living and working in academic environment. Most of the students Harrison asked didn’t know that IELTS is based on Western academic situations, so couldn’t engage. They asked students what they needed, and decidedd to include these in the lower-level books:

The Bridge to IELTS course focuses on grammar and skills, particularly writing, not exam practice. Towards test preparation though, with a heavy focus on study skills. Wanted strong focus on study skills so students could take ownership of the learning process. Bridge to IELTS includes ‘Living IELTS’ – strategies for sounding natural and using the language naturally in the real world.

One of the course features is timed reading and writing to try and improve lower-level students’ confidence. Writing is a great obstacle for a lot of students, and for University of Glasgow it’s the first score they look at. In the Bridge to IELTS writing bank, they help students understand input data, model answers, provide structured support and there is a reference bank of common phrases.

Bridge to IELTS tries to switch between units about academic/university life and general English. It helps with study skills, for example teaching students how to use colours and tables to learn vocabulary. To build confidence, they provide test tips, breaking down the exam, showing them how to practise outside class and do well in exam. Living IELTS gives students language they can use in the test but also outside class. Harrison says we should teach students towards their goal as soon as they are ready,so a pre-preparation course is necessary.

Going multimodal: a different take on academic writing – Ania Rolinska (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Ania Rolinska’s talk, taken from my tweets.

As part of Ania’s Masters, she had to submit two online assignments, so decided to try to replicate this with students.
Gaining knowledge through visuals has gained a lot of power. Yet When we think about academia, we normally think about e.g. isolated writing in the library rather than video projects (except for art/film students!)
There is a fear that the internet is making us stupid (Nicholas Carr -2008), but Socrates said the same about writing 2500 years ago! The internet as a medium of learning puts us in a new relation to writing (Ulmer, 2003). Kress/van Leeuwen 2001 say that we can write with image, audio, video, layout – no modality is superior (nor text!). Ulmer suggests we should teach students how to be literate in many different modes, not just writing. e.g. lateral thinking.
In a multi-modal assignment, all modes have equal weight. They add new layers of information, separate/link domains. They can also juxtapose things to critique or explain. Writing and reading digital assignments is a process of designing – it has a different kind of complexity to an essay.
This is an example of a multi-modal assignment Ania did for her Masters. Layout equalises content.

The power relationship between reader/writer is different. It’s more equal as reader decides what to look at in what order. The assignment can be accessed through different sites e.g. start with prezi, move to youtube or vice-versa.
The genre question: not focussing so much on structure (intro, main body, conc), but on what assignment does.
Multimodal assignments are good because it looks at what it means to be literate (processes not skills), intellectual tension (what does it mean to produce academic work). Multi-modal assignments are engaging and enjoyable – you own the learning (more if there are no guides/restrictions). Ania felt she became more self-directed and autonomous as a result of the project. However, these can be problems:

The argument can lose it’s strength when it’s multimodal, meaning conclusions are not strong enough. We need to think about the target student: do you need to be an accomplished academic writer before you can work multimodally?
Assessment criteria included core criteria (eg knowledge of acadmaic referencing) plus student’s own criteria (Ania’s included layout, use of video and more).
Assessment of multimodal assignments includes a degree of subjectivity.

No flippin’ idea – Valentina Dodge (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Valentina Dodge’s talk, taken from my tweets.

Flipped learning is from lecturing with the ‘sage on the stage’ – the lecturer puts the video online, class used for enquiry. A lot of the enquiry-oriented models from the flipped classroom were already present in EFL. What is blended learning? The learning cycle includes reflecting, sharing prior knowledge, reading, watching, listening, creating, consolidating, reviewing, questioning, interacting, solving, discussing, commenting. @vale360 prefers the idea of a flow to a flip, including the cloud (web), like the 5E model (explore, explain, elaborate etc). The blending learning continuum has fully online at one end and face to face at the other.

@vale360 created an email course using student examples, mostly online but face-to-face was possible.
Some people want face-to-face because they already have too much screen time.
A workshop model of blended learning is tipped towards online – face-to-face preceded or followed by online. More flipped.
Extra e-study model: coursebooks plus online components – some say this is blended learning. Adds personal study to what is done in class.

Project work = 50/50 face-to-face/online – classwork is totally integrated with online – if you don’t do online, class is difficult. For example, the students wanted to research how journalists track social media. A SS set up a facebook group. All joined! After doing their projects, students reflect on their performance. For example, students were videoed reflecting, and the video was posted on private class wiki. The perfect approach to the flipped classroom Ccording to @vale360 is this project work approach. English360 has resources and content that can help with the blended course. But @vale360 reminds us there is no one best practice and no ‘one size fits all’

There shouldn’t be any assumptions about what students can and can’t do. You need guides to the tech/support. There is also no single role for the teacher in blended learning – it’s a learning process. Go local: localize the content of your courses. Failed courses @vale360 has seen have been irrelevant.

Combining teaching, learning and research: an exploratory practice approach – Ana Ines Salvi, Yasmin Dar, Judith Hanks (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Ana Ines Salvi, Yasmin Dur and Judith Hanks’ talk, taken from my tweets.



They’re going to talk about exploratory practice, teaching and learning, focussing on an EAP context, especially pre-sessionals.
There are seven principles for inclusive practitioner research, after Allwright:
1. focus on quality of life as the main issue.
2. Work to understand it before thinking about solving problems
3. Involve everyone as practitioners developing their own understanding (include learners). By involving everyone in the research it breaks down barriers.
4. Work to bring people together in a common experience
5. Work cooperatively for mutual development.
6. Make it a continuous enterprise.
7. Minimise the burden by integrating (this) work into normal pedagogic practice

Ana worked on 5-week pre-sessional and wanted to combine research and learner autonomy and find SS perceptions. She encouraged collaboration and interaction in the classroom to make decisions/choose topics/tasks for autonomy. The students kept logbooks/diaries to track their learning and sent her an email summarising their learning at the end of each week. One group came up with their own survey to do research based on four questions, then did research. They interviewed classmates, presented their findings to classmates and disseminated the findings to other teachers. Ana’s students did the research and made the posters in four hours over two days.

Yasmin did research for her MA with adult ESOL learners looking into their motivation. Yasmin’s students told each other whether they did their homework, and she eavesdropped with permission. She learnt to appreciate that they were not the same as her in terms of motivation and styles, so she changed her expectations. The main question she investigated was “Why are the learners not taking responsibility for their learning outside class?” Yasmin then repeated her research with EAP students and found they were very similar to her ESOL learners! She then introduced research to her class, asked students what their puzzles were, and they did the research.

Judith asked her students what puzzled them about their language learning experience. They made the posters on the wall. The exciting thing about Judith’s project was learners making the journey of self-discovery themselves, rather the T supplying answer. When doing the poster presentation, students were surprised that the other learners in the group were interested. (The posters in the research talk I’m at are in a lot of depth – it’s amazing what came out of the student’s research.) The research students did was a great way for them to examine their own learning.

Teachers sharing questions they have with the students can be really successful too. People in the room shared their experiences.

Think smart! Developing thinking skills for IELTS students – Sue O’Connell (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Sue O’Connell’s talk.

Sue studied university students (I think – I was a couple of minutes late and missed this!) The main reason IELTS students failed was not speaking or writing skills, but thinking skills.
Sue will look at how to inteoduce critical thinking to students, particularly in terms of generating lots of ideas.
Why should we, as language teachers, concern ourselves with thinking skills? If we’re in eduaction, we have no choice. We’re in the business of brain development (John Medina)
Finding ideas is a huge problem. When you Goolge “i need an idea” you get 2 billion hits. Here a some problems collected from IELTS students online.

People have the wrong idea about IELTS. they think it requires a high level of reasoning and ideas, but Sue feels most students have these ideas, but the problem is that they can’t access and apply these ideas. They tend not to engage deeply enough in the topic, or they engage in the wrong type of thinking. There is a lot of research into thinking at the moment. One of the main areas is divergent thinking, Sir Ken Robinson describes it as the ability to see many different ways of interpreting questions, Students often think there is only right way to answer a question. Divergent thinking is also the ability to think of lots of possible answers, try new approaches to old problems, and think laterally. Sue thinks these ideas are all highly relevant to our students.
An experiment was done testing learners for genius level based on divergent thinking. For 5-6 year olds, the percentage was 98%. For 10 year olds, 32% and for 15 year olds, 10%. The good news is we’re all born with the capacity for divergent thinking, but somewhere along the lines we lose it and become convergent thinkers.
We need to help our atudents think more fluently and more flexibly. It’s unrealistic to throw students in at the deep end, so it’s better to nudge them out of old habits, moving them gradually towards what they might need at university,
Safe ground to start with is making lists, for example, what are the advantages and disadvantages of X? Adding selecting and categorising makes it an even better thinking task. For example, make a list of sports and hobbies, each one beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Then look at your list and divide them into any five A/B categories you want to, for example something you do alone/with other people. If you let students work for five minutes or so on this, for the first third of the time, the ideas are fairly routine, the next third are more unusual, and the final third are more original and complex. Therefore, you must encourage students to defer editing (ideas first, then monitor) and don’t stop the idea generation process. There are two stages: possibility (all possible) and practical (what is actually relevant). It’s useful to have a quota and a time limit.
You need to see something from at least three different perspectives to have any kind of depth. Groupwork can give you that. “Good ideas come from crowds, they come from networks” Steven Johnson, the author of ‘Where good ideas come from’
“We don’t pay attention to boring things”: Brain Rule #4 by John Medina. This matters a lot in learning. He always asks a new class how quickly they switch off in a lecture. They normally say 10-15 minutes, so we need to reset the clock with a novel stimulus. The more attention you pay to a stimulus, the more likely it is to remember things.
For this activity, you need a scrap of paper and divide it in half vertically, and you’ll write down seven words. At the top of the left column, you write ‘nice’ and ‘not nice’ at the top of the other. These are the ones Sue dictated (and my choices): lecture (nice), shy (nice), competition (nice), shopping (not nice), grammar (nice), drama (not nice). You have to dictate them quite quickly so people don’t have time to think a lot! Then compare them to a partner and say why. You can also try easy/not easy, relevant/not relevant.
Brain rule #10: we learn and remember better through pictures, not words or “Vision trumps all other senses”. Visual processing takes up about 50% of our brains. We pay more attention to shapes and colours. Venn diagrams are great for categorising. For example, this one for noun formation:

20130411-151936.jpg diviing nouns by -ity or -tion. It can be done physically too:

20130411-152048.jpg You can also use this for formal/informal/neutral.
You can make a three-circle Venn with creatures e.g. horses/humans/frogs – what characteristics are common to each/unique?
Brain rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power. John Medina: “To improve your thinking skills, move.” Your brain is likely to be more active walking to work than it is when you get there! People who exercise outperform the couch potatoes (oh no!)
It’s really helpful to encourage students to make thinking visible. For example, mind maps activate the whole brain. They are a proven way to transform information from short-term to long-term memory. There are lots of other ways from Enchanted Learning.
Remind students it’s OK to mistakes: encourage students to choose their favourite mistakes. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Sir Ken Robinson. “When you do something, you might fail, but that’s not because you’re a failure, it’s because you haven’t learnt enough to succeed yet.” Jordan Belfort
In summary, we need to:
– encourage divergent thinking
– help learners to see issues from different perspectives
– use colours and graphics
– exploit the element of surprise
– give permission to make mistakes
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” Albert Einstein for John Medina

Technology for teaching pronunciation – Robin Walker (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Robin Walker’s talk, taken from my tweets.

Robin starts off by saying he’s not a Luddite or a technophobe, but he has a certain defree of scepticism. He loves pronunciation though!

These are expert performers at something they have automaticized (sp?) and this is similar to pron. We can learn from professional sport and skills acquisition there, and take this into pron teaching.
We need to think about suitability, choice and sequence when it comes to technology for pronuncation. The app needs to address the problems the learners have (suitability), give them choice, and give them sequence. It needs to give them an explicit intrroduction to what is going to happen, because they are not in the classroom. The app has to contain repetition to make the skill completely automatic. It has to have place (students can choose where to study) and pace (how fast). The app has to offer feedback and correction – without corrective feedback, their neuronal pattern will be reinforced. Progress needs to be shown – if students can’t see this they can get very depressed.

Previous pron technologies include CALL (eg software), but some limitations – doesn’t recognise accent variation. Robin gives the example of Geordie ‘cook’. A tape recorder was used to make sure that pronunciation was part of the mark in Robin’s testing in Spain. Students recorded and rerecorded pronunciation using tape recorders – they were very motivated. Problem with tape recorders was resources – only 2 for 30+ students!

For listening, accent variation is the reality. If we don’t help students get used to this, they will have trouble. You can use the Speech Accent Archive to get students interested in different accents, but it’s based on an unnatural paragraph. is the English Language Listening Library Online – they can select by accent. Students are interested in the content on elllo, and have to adjust listening to understand accents. They enjoy it!
Judy Gilbert wrote Clear Speech for American English. There is a CUP app to accompany it, although limited choice. Clear Speech has a clear sense of progression, feedback – ticks lots of Walker’s boxes.
Cool speech, hot listening app is highly praised by Walker. It has the tapescript and analyses and breaks it down.

The BBC learning English website has pronunciation too. But BBC pron has no feedback, and there’s no indication of how to get it right. It can reinforce problems.
The University of Iowa website lets you look at US English, Spanish or German. It shows animation of mouth, which is very effective.
Macmillan Sounds app based on Underhill’s chart lets you hear phoneme, but no corrective feedback. Great apart from that.

Technology for recording – you can use audacity (but it’s complex for some), Walker recommends WavePad. The wave forms in the reocrdings really help them to see tonic stress in sentences (Eng v Span):

Recorder pro is an app where students can send it to you. is fun and interesting – you can tell students how intelligible their English is in general. Listen once only.
Use Dragon Dictate – it changes speech to text on the iPhone. But can have trouble with accents.
You can get Dragon Dictate software too, and train it to understand your accent.
Voice recognition and corrective feedback are the two areas where the technology is still lacking.

To finish, Robin showed us one of my all-time favourite Youatube videos: “Scottish Voice Operated Lift” – watch it!

Puppet-masters and puzzle-solvers: a match made in heaven? – Danny Norrington-Davies (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Danny Norrington-Davies’ talk, taken from my tweets.

DND says his talk came about from observing, because it’s great for stealing ideas, and seeing people make progress. He finds he spends a lot of time in lessons watching the learners and seeing how their learning progresses. SS are the puzzle solvers, T are the puppet masters (in a non-pejorative way), but often miss the puzzles.
He asks: “After output stages, what do feedback sessions usually consist of?” Audience suggestions: asking students how they think it went, plus-minus-plus technique, focussing on mistakes/outcome. DND suggest these puzzles: SS can’t find a word, can’t understand other SS, can’t choose right form, communication breaks down and also that learners speak to themselves! We focus on outcomes, but they focus on puzzles.

Puzzle number 1
The case of the Brazilian astronaut: choose a role model from your culture who speaks good English: if they can do it, you can too. Here is a task. What is the puzzle? do the students solve it?

What do you think? Our opinion: the SS can understand and T doesn’t need to intervene.

The puzzle is a ‘code-switch’ triggered by the absence of a lexical item. They account for 1/3 of switches, and Ls are aware of them. At the end of the task, DND asked students to brainstorm equivalents to the Portuguese words they needed and they were discussed, but he wasn’t happy with this solution.
Students made posters with a picture of themselves and thought bubbles showing their process/issues. Here are some examples:

The poster shows students that they are not the only ones with the same problems.

Puzzle number 2

Students didn’t understand each other.
This is an opportunity for noticing:

Whenever SS can’t understand each other, they have a question mark on a card they can hold up to elicit teacher intervention.
Students also do some repetition to self (covert repetition) – DND added more of this.

Puzzle number 3
Kenta and Sorour don’t know when to quit.

From puzzle 3, Kenta said before ‘if I don’t understand I give up’, but actually he didn’t when trying to understand. So it can be better to ask students ‘what went wrong?’ sometimes, rather than ‘can you correct this?’

DND called his question mark cards ‘intervention cards’ – SS become more aware of calling over the T. Intervention cards meant feedback could include openly discussing events/puzzles, why they used cards, why they didn’t! When they didn’t use their card it was because they solved the puzzle themselves or worked the way around the problem without T. After using intervention cards Danny redid the posters from the start of the course. SS realised their mistakes didn’t matter, when they needed to do more, and ‘I can learn more with my friends but I can call you when I need you’.

By focussing on outcomes in feedback, we can often miss the event of puzzle solving. Ss are happy to talk about these. By focussing on gaps, learners were made aware of the gaps in their own language, and of the impact of that gap. DND’s students were also more willing to discuss strategies. They were quite effective at choosing intervention. Students were more able to see a different actual-self (the student they think they are v. ideal self, they want to be). Using learner extracts and transcripts increases the chances of them noticing and remembering highlighted feedback (Lynch 2007). You can get learner transcripts by asking students if you can record them.

Students can use the card if they don’t understand the teacher too. They had one card per group.

Mark Hancock on the same presentation

Tag Cloud