IH London Future of Training Conference

On 13th November 2021, I attended a truly hybrid conference. 150 trainers attended from around the world, with some of us in the building at IH London, and the rest attending online. All of the sessions were presented via Zoom so that we were all watching the same thing and could participate equally, either via the chat or by speaking to the person next to us. Those of us in the building also had catering 🙂

Here is the YouTube playlist with recordings of all of the talks.

The sessions I attended were:

  • International skills for better communication – Chia Suan Chong
  • Challenging CCQs – Yulianto Lukito and Yanina Leigh
  • Teaching online: construct and methods to give teachers what they need – Alison Castle (mostly about the Trinity Certificate in Online Teaching)
  • Online teacher training in low resource contexts – Nicky Hockly
  • Using WhatsApp for teacher development – Danny Norrington-Davies and Khassoum Diop
  • Meeting local needs in contexts new to the internet – Joe Wilsdon
  • Raining on prom night – James Egerton and Giovanni Licata
  • Learning by doing: Replanning a methodology course to prepare for online teaching – Joanna Szoke
  • A journey through time – Abeer Ali Okaz
  • Final comments by Adrian Underhill
IH London this morning 🙂

I really enjoyed this conference format. I was lucky enough to be able to attend in person, which meant that I got to see all of the sessions and to discuss them with people face-to-face too. Because the sessions ran online we heard the voices of people from all over the world, including questions by chat and on video from a range of different countries, not just the people who could make it to IH London. I saw talks presented by teachers in York, Sydney, Senegal, Barcelona, Cairo, Moscow, Rome and Budapest. The conference felt really international, and it really did feel like it was talking about the Future of Training and what is possible for us in the future – I can’t remember the last time a conference theme was actually fulfilled as well as this! I’m looking forward to watching the recordings of parallel sessions which I couldn’t attend.

International skills for better communication – Chia Suan Chong

A large proportion of our job relies on us talking and interacting with our students, and helping them to interact with each other as they communicate in English. It should naturally follow that we should be experts at interpersonal skills and communication skills. But we know that that’s not always true. A typical teacher training course might address areas like how to grade our language, how to give instructions or how to respond to students’ errors but seldom do we discuss how we can build trust and rapport with our students, how we can deal with conflict or how we can adapt our communication style to the different students we encounter. In this interactive session, we’ll be reflecting on our range of interpersonal skills and considering how we can develop them.

I attended Chia’s version of this talk at IATEFL 2021 this year. You can find the summary at the end of this post. There were a few extra points in this teacher training version (I recommended you read both posts to get the full picture!):

Transactional Communication v. Interpersonal Communication

T = Focus on information exchange v. I = Focus on building relationships

T = Getting things done v. I = Getting to know people

T = For the short term (results) v. I = For the long term (relationship)

T = Shorter turns v. I = Longer turns

T = Predictable script v. I = Less predictable

T = Often measurable result (Did you get what you needed?) v. I = Not instantly measurable

Interpersonal skills are the skills you need to interact and communicate with people….Interpersonal skills are sometimes referred to as social skills, people skills, soft skills or life skills.

Skillsyouneed.com

As teacher trainers we tend to give feedback/tips on transactional communication, rather than interpersonal communication. This is often easier or more straightforward for us to do this, not least because of the predictability of transactional scripts. Interpersonal skills like rapport, classroom dynamics, building a positive atmosphere are all much more difficult to give advice on.

Chia presents a series of training called Fierce Conversations, created by Susan Scott, who also wrote a book with the same name [Amazon affiliate link]. The idea is that the conversation is not about the relationship, it is the relationship. When we have conversations with others, we’re building relationships – we can’t separate these two areas.

What tips can we give to build rapport?

We came up with these ideas:

  • Remember names.
  • Share information about yourself.
  • Ask genuine questions.
  • Be sincere and honest.
  • Remember what they say.
  • Respect them.
  • Space in the lesson for relationship building.
  • Take account of their experiences beyond the classroom/lessons.

When you do an online search for how to build rapport, there are some useful ideas, but we might need to be culturally sensitive with some of them, for example about using humour or laughing often.

Incorporate personal stories and personal experiences: some students might find this unprofessional. They might have a different expectation of what is and isn’t appropriate in the classroom.

Allow students to make decisions on classroom activities: some students might not be happy with what they might see as an abdication of the teacher role. Menus of options might be more useful than open questions – you could also use the contents page of a coursebook to do this.

[My note: It’s also important to maintain our boundaries and our mental health, so be cautious with advising ideas like ‘volunteering your time outside class to support students’ or ‘have breakfast/lunch in the school cafe surrounded by your students’.]

Ultimately, one size doesn’t fit all with how we build rapport.

Why should I trust you?

Good question!

  • Because we’re teachers.
  • Because we’ve built up a certain level of knowledge.
  • Because we trust them.

If you want to read more about trust, Chia recommends The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Robert Galford and Charles Green. It includes the Trust Equation (described in this post). To improve trust, you ultimately need to reduce self-orientation.

Do you ever have people who ask you for advice, but really they want you to listen to them complaining about what other people think of them? That’s one example of self-orientation. Self-orientation is when you put yourself in the centre, rather than having regard for the people you’re talking to.

We should bring trust into the conversation in teacher training courses. What efforts are teachers/trainers making to build relationships in the classroom? How do we build trust? Which strategies do we use?

Ways that we build trust:

  • Establish competence – I’m competent in this area, you can trust me
  • Finding common ground (commonality)
  • Empathy
  • Openness (information) – what you see is what you get, I don’t have a hidden agenda
  • Reliability – you can trust me because I’m reliable
  • Openness (emotion) – showing vulnerability, you have to be genuine about it!
  • Willingness to trust first – we trust people who trust us

In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, very precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.

Stephen Covey

Here are some critical incidents you could discuss with trainees. How would you react?

  • Your student arrives late for class. They don’t apologize and they don’t give any reasons for being late.
    We’re conditioned to believe that justifying behaviour in this way is the correct, so we’re taken aback when our social script for this situation has been disrupted. The student might not have the same social script. Who says that we should give reasons for being late? He might not feel like he’s late – it might be a different perception of time. If you haven’t specified classroom rules from the beginning of the course, then it might be different.
  • You tell students to address you by your first name and they keep calling you ‘professor’.
  • You’re telling the class a story and one student keep interrupting to comment on parts of your story and to ask questions.

You could think about your communication style, as well as the communication style of somebody you don’t get along with. What are the similarities and differences? Are your problems with communication a result of the similarities or the differences? It can help people to realise they have different communication styles. Chia has included a series of clines to help you do this in her book Successful International Communication [Amazon affiliate link/BEBC non-affiliate link]

Nothing can be said in a way in which it cannot be misunderstood.

Karl Popper

The illusion of transparency: We always know what we mean, and so we expect others to know it too. There is a tendency to overestimate the extent to which other people understand us.

The ADAPT model (developed by Chia)

  • Awareness: What’s happened here?
    Describe the situation in other ways.
  • Don’t judge: avoid words like ‘picking at’, ‘being negative’
  • Analyse: can you think of at least 3 interpretations of why this is happening in this way/why the people behaved in this way?
  • Persuade yourself: align the communication values of the other person with yourself
  • Try: Me and my style v. Them and their style. If you try and adapt 20% of your behaviour, you might get 80% of the results you want (Pareto principle)

Challenging CCQs – Yulianto Lukito and Yanina Leigh

This presentation deals with CCQs (concept checking questions) as a language clarification
technique. Trainees on pre-service courses and new teachers sometimes claim this technique
is rigidly based on “the CELTA method” and does not work well in the real classroom where
learners desire clear explanations. This session will question the validity of such a claim and
propose practical strategies to deal with issues arising in this area.

Yuli and Yanina are asking does “questioning” work? The points below say they don’t:

Observation of trainees in pre-service courses

  • Lack of use – don’t use them at all
  • Overuse – asking them when they’re not necessary
  • Inappropriate use – not asking the right questions
  • Misuse – ‘If my room is upstairs, is it downstairs?’ (no purpose at all!)

Observation of experienced teachers

  • CCQs ‘don’t work’ with lower levels
  • ‘Explanation’ is simpler and more time-efficient
  • Students don’t answer questions, so we’ll have to explain anyway

Learner feedback (anecdotal)

  • Learners want teachers to ‘explain’ well
  • Learners expect teachers to ‘explain’
  • Learners may perceive a lack of explanation as a lack of knowledge

So what can we do as trainers and teachers to help trainees/teachers see the benefit of questioning approaches?

Less CCQs – More CCTs

Concept clarification techniques, rather than questions.

On many courses, CCQs tend to become the technique to be used – in lessons, in assignments. The misperception of CCQs as part of ‘The CELTA method’ could be partly our fault as trainers. Should they be an obligatory part of Language Related Tasks? Is this giving trainees the impression that CCQs are more important than other techniques?

We should assess their ability to select appropriate concept clarification techniques instead. Here’s a selection of what trainees could use as a CCT:

  • Antonyms/synonums
  • TPR/mime
  • Cline and timelines
  • CCQs
  • Ask for examples and extension
  • Visuals/Realia/Audio-visual
  • Scenario/presentation
  • Guided discovery
  • Explanation
  • Translation

Develop ‘questioning’ skills appropriate to the level

Help trainees become successful in eliciting information. Could becoming skillful at using questioning tehcniques effectively enable trainees (and teachers) to move away from lecturing learners? Explanations can be a comfort zone for many teachers, but this could be because they lack the skill of questioning well.

  • Focus on purpose first: to get information, opinions, check understanding
  • Question design and variety e.g.
    Funnel questions: typical CCQs. We ask quite a few questions to check the core meaning.
    Probing questions: allows you to gather more subjective data based on learner response. e.g. What are some examples of things which are revolting? Soup. Tell me why soup is revolting.
    Leading questions: If you ate soup, would you vomit straight away?
    Recall and process: open-ended questions. Use this promote critical thinking and discussion. Do you remember last week when we talked about….? What do you remember?
  • Scripting and practising
  • Rephrasing and adjusting: don’t give up too quickly. If students don’t answer, try to reword the question, provide more clues, though don’t turn it into a guessing game.
  • Consider waiting time – yes!

Being able to vary question design can help trainees avoid being in the habit of patterns like 2 questions answered ‘no’ followed by one answered ‘yes’.

This set of skills could be more useful fuel for a session than one dedicated to how to write CCQs.

Flipped approach

  • Trainees plan CCQs for TL allocated. Peer-teaching to get feedback on appropriacy. This can improve teaching quality as trainees have a chance to experiment with techniques.
  • Video trainees (with permission!) during the lessons – gather a library of weak and strong clarification stages for other trainees to watch and discuss. Trainees aren’t really watching their peers on the days when they’re teaching – this could create a wider library for them to access.
  • Play games with CCTs. For example, charades. This could give trainees a chance to practise these techniques.
  • Ask trainees to watch videos, like Jo Gakonga’s Concept Checking Made Easy. Feedback in class on key points. Or use my resources (thanks Yuli!)
  • Give trainees the chance to go back and re-teach language to peers and see what they can improve, in a non-assessed, safe environment.

Responding to learners’ expectations – Is there a place for ‘explanations’ in the language classroom?

Yes, there is, as long as we explain well.

The students might have a different understanding of what explanation means to us – we might contrast explanation with questioning, whereas students might equate explanation with clarification.

There are some situations when explanation might be better:

  • L1 negative transfer – it might be faster sometimes to explain in the language
  • Universal concepts – just tell them what it is (e.g. banana)
  • Lack of knowledge – if they don’t know, you can’t elicit it – just tell them!
  • When students ask a random language question in the middle of the lesson – it can be frustrating if students are questioned in response
  • Error correction technique – it can be more efficient
  • Thematic words/phrases – key words for the lesson, tell them what it is and move on. You could use rhetorical questions to generate interest and move on.

[Odd CCQ moment I came across recently, clarifying the meaning of some global problems. “Child mortality. Are you OK with that?” Nobody batted an eyelid at this strange question!]

In conclusion, it’s not about abandonining CCQs, but keeping a balance. Helping trainees to realise when to ask and when to tell. CCQs can be ineffective for trainees, because they haven’t developed and practised questioning skills during the course.

In our discussion at the end of the session, Richard mentioned the idea of using techniques/questions to bring meaning into focus, stopping it from being so fuzzy. I like that idea that the meaning is blurred at first, and you’re using techniques to tighten it up. You could extend this metaphor – how focussed does the image need to be? Does it need to be completely sharp, or is a little fuzzy good enough? What’s the most efficient way to make it sufficiently sharp to move on with the lesson?

Teaching online: construct and methods to give teachers what they need – Alison Castle (mostly about the Trinity Certificate in Online Teaching)

This talk reports on Trinity’s development of a new online course and qualification that
supports teachers working in an online environment. We will first review how we arrived at
the underlying pedagogical underpinnings and then talk about how these were implemented in the course design. Finally, we will consider data from impact studies to identify lessons
learnt for future support.

Some initial conversation questions:

  • If you have experienced a move from in-person to online teaching, what skills or knowledge did you feel you needed in order to be as effective online as you are in an ‘in-person’ class?
  • What skills or knowledge do you think teahcers need in general when transitioning from ‘in-person’ to online teaching?
  • What types of resources are needed to help teachers develop their online teaching skills?

Trinity now have a course called Teach English Online.

They started off with a webinar series called Transformative Teachers, which has been running for a number of years. At the beginning of the pandemic, they started creating free online learning resources and enable blended and online Trinity courses. This moved on to writing a full courses, piloting and trialling it, and then launching it in the autumn.

It is self-study, convenient, bite-sized, and includes lots of examples of showing how to teach English online. They’re not just perfect classes, but real-life ones with a critique of what did and didn’t work. The support is informed by research and experience. There is a communicative focus, with the learner kept at the centre of the process.

The course is designed to develop the following areas:

  • Developing teachres’ ability to use online tools effectively
  • Helping teachers identify online tools that meet learning needs
  • Using interaction that encourages communicative learning in an online environment
  • Using online assessment techniques that meet learning needs
  • Helping teachers create a motivating environment for online learning
  • Increasing teachers’ confidence in facilitating online learning

There are 10 units of study, divided into 3 modules:

  • Preparing for the online classroom (intro, planning, classroom management)
  • Developing language skills
  • Resources for learning and teaching (tasks and activities, resource adaptation, design and creation)

You can access separate units or whole modules, so it’s flexible. There’s a sample unit on the website. It’s also possible to get a regulated qualification, an Ofqual Level 4 Certificate (CertOT), from Trinity if you complete the whole course.

The course includes:

  • A variety of media:
    • Interviews
    • Classroom best practice
    • Whole lessons
    • Best practice critique
  • Lesson resources:
    • Lesson plans
    • Examples of online resources for focussed use
  • Application of theory
  • Portfolio task

They’ve done research to measure the impact of the course.

Some lessons they learnt from developing an online course:

  • Test, pilot and trial as much as possible. Review content from different perspectives, including welfare experts, not just teachers, schools, academics.
  • Ensure there is time to react to trials and reviews.
  • Choose a platform that works globally or for your target area.
  • Check copyright restrictions for content and learn about Creative Commons.
  • Be aware of safeguarding.

Lessons learnt about teachers’ needs:

  • Teachers need to be shown focussed, practical techniques to help their ‘just-in-time learning’.
  • Videos of real classes are just as valuable as mini best-practice videos.
  • Teachers need to be directed to consolidate learning, just like ‘non-teacher’ learners
  • Online learning must have a variety of media to help maintain interest and support local adaptation.
  • Teaching is a messy business: acknowledge and embrace this.
  • Teachers want certification for learning just as much as learners do!

Online teacher training in low resource contexts – Nicky Hockly

School closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic have led to learning loss at all levels of education, including for teachers. This talk reports on fully online teacher training projects that
TCE have carried out over the last 18 months in data-poor contexts in Africa. Lessons learned
about designing fully online teacher training courses for low resource contexts will be shared.

The Consultants-E are members of Aqueduto and take part in research into online teacher training – there’s lots of interesting information on their website.

Through TCE, Nicky has experience of running projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, including English by WhatsApp, English Connects and a project called CoELT.

Some of the challenges to moving teacher training online during the pandemic (AQUEDUTO, 2022 – research to be published soon):

  • Lack of digital skills amongst trainers
  • Lack of access to tech
  • Lack of support for well-being, of teachers and learners
  • Resistance to working online

Positives found in the same research:

  • Digital upskilling
  • Rethinking teacher assessment
  • Enhanced collaboration and support
  • Online teacher training is now ‘on the map’ – accepted and recognised as valid

Nicky is telling us about a specific online project in South Africa.

Challenges:

  • Widespread school closures
  • Teachers unable to reach learners remotely
  • Rural / urban digital divide
  • High data costs (highest on the continent); loadshedding (rolling electricity cuts)
  • Lack of devices (e.g. one feature phone per family – i.e. with a keyboard, not a smartphone)
  • Online teaching/training via a VLE and/or videoconferencing not realistic in many SA contexts
  • Massive learning loss, especially in rural and deprived areas

COELT: Certificate in Online English Language Teaching: done in cooperation with the British Council and the Department for Basic Education (DBE). TCE developed the course, then trained a group of Master Trainers who took the course as participants at first then cascaded the training to teachers. The course was:

  • 40 hours fully online
  • 6 modules over 6 weeks
  • Aligned to EFAL (English as a First Additional Language) materials for Grades 1-12
  • Aligned to CiPELT and CiSELT training (teaching methodology certificates)

Course tools:

  • Self-study materials on a Google site
  • WhatsApp for teacher reflection and group work
  • Weekly Zoom sessions (for debrief and reflection)

Mentoring and evlauation:

  • Group mentoring via WhatsApp
  • Individual coaching via Zoom – several times during the cascade
  • Evaluation of online competencies via an evidence-based evaluation framework with indicators

As it was for a low-tech context, they kept the following in mind:

  • Easy to access materials: Google site, not behind a password protected VLE
  • Mobile-friendly: designed for mobile first
  • Low data demands: icons rather than photos, audio rather than video, H5P to create simple interactive elements in self-study materials (e.g. drag and drop, click on ABCD and get feedback)
  • South African teaching materials and local accents in audio
  • Downloadable PDFs for each module (many people will find wifi, download materials and take them away to read them)
  • WhatsApp as the main communication channel for teacher training
  • WhatsApp for demo live language lessons

WhatsApp Live Lessons – synchronous interaction

Some related research from MIT done in South Africa to train community leaders in rural areas: Mohlabane and Zomer, 2020.

TCE took DBE materials and thought about how it could be delivered via WhatsApp in an engaging, realtime lesson.

The live lesson starts off with rules and routines. 10 minutes/5 minutes before the lesson, they check ‘Are you ready?’ The start of the lesson is reviewing the group rules which were established in the first lesson. There’s a clear signal for when they start: *OK, everybody. Ready, steady, go.* The lessons are very intense and very fast, although it’s important to remember that typing can take longer on a feature phone. The pace of the lesson is slower on a feature phone than on a smartphone.

They demo a live lesson on WhatsApp, with the trainees experiencing the lesson as students. Then there is clear signal that they’re now teachers, and share their immediate reactions to the lesson. There can be a mix of voice notes and text.

They also used WhatsApp for reflective course tasks during the course.

Findings

  • The digital skills of the teachers was so much lower than they expected. Key digital skills were lacking, for example being able to copy and paste. They added a 6-hour key digital skills to the beginning of the course with these absolute basics.
  • Tech with low demands in terms of data, but also in terms of the digital skills required.
  • Videoconferencing might not be appropriate – they used it because the DBE requested it, but not everybody could use it.
  • They used WhatsApp in RT (real time) and NQRT (not quite real time) – a combination of these interactions was very effective.
  • The interaction in WhatsApp was with text, pictures and voice notes, but no videos.
  • They integrated ways of how to use WhatsApp in other ways for education, for example liaising with parents.

Nicky expects that WhatsApp will continue to be used in this way even after the pandemic.

Using WhatsApp for teacher development – Khassoum Diop and Danny Norrington-Davies

In this session we will share our experience of using WhatsApp to offer development opportunities to large groups of teachers or teachers working in different locations. We will offer tips
and advice on how to set up groups and set boundaries, encourage sharing and participation,
and how to help teacher developers manage their time and commitments. We will finish by
offering suggestions on how WhatsApp might be used on teacher development courses.

Danny is a trainer from IH London, and Khassoum is a trainer in Senegal. They ran the session as a Q&A. Danny asked questions and Khassoum gave the answers.

Some initial questions:

  • Have you ever used WhatsApp for teachign training?
  • How might WhatsApp be used for training in your context?

Why do you use WhatsApp for training and development?

  • Lots of teachers in different and sometimes remote locations
  • Poor internet coverage does not allow for high tech tools
  • Does not require lots of training/digital skills
  • Can use text, pictures and voice notes
  • Less expensive than other tools

How many teachers do you tend to work with?

As many teachers as possible! Locally and internationally.

What do you mainly use WhatsApp groups for?

  • Social interactions – building rapport and community with other teachers
  • Sharing materials
  • Sharing techniques and ideas

What advice do you have for setting up and running discussions?

  • Set up a clear, focussed question.
  • Set clear time limits, e.g. the end of the week.
  • Situate discussions in the classroom so they are more real.
  • Respond to contributions and ask follow up questions so teacher do more than give lists of ideas.
  • Summarise and share the discussion at the end – these summaries can become training materials or articles for publication. The summaries are also shared on WhatsApp. Summaries can be written by the co-ordinating trainer, or by a member of the group.

What kinds of topics have you had discussions about?

They tend to focus discussions on a specific topic, for example, the different stages of listening comprehension, or strategies for teaching listening. The discussions can also motivate teachers to explore topics in more depth.

  • Discussions to develop content knowledge – for example, based on problems a student has, asking for advice, What would you say?
  • Discussions to develop pedagogic knowledge – for example, pair or groupwork.

Discussions framed as problems/case studies can be helpful to encourage teachers to answer.

How important is it to have rules and regulations on your teacher WhatsApp groups and how do you set this up?

A sample set of rules:

Remember that [this group] abides by these rules:

  1. English posts ONLY
  2. No religious or political posts
  3. Give and take ONLY in [this group]
  4. Do not keep silent, participate as much as possible.
  5. No personal discussions in [this group]

Thank you for your understanding.

Tips:

  • Set clear rules and boundaries at the start. These could relate to content, tone and times when you can post.
  • Have a system to deal with transgressions e.g. give a warning before taking action/suspending a participant
  • Give new participants time to settle before they become active
  • Talk to the ‘ghosts’ (the people who watch but don’t participate) – make sure people are giving as well as taking, because everybody’s ideas are valid. They find that a lot of people contribute the following session after this.

What advice do you have for encouraging teachers to share materials? What do you have to consider when you share materials?

  • There is a rule that they’re not there to assess or evaluate materials, but that everybody’s materials and ideas are valid. They don’t want people to feel ashamed about sharing materials. Be clear that the thread is about sharing rather than assessment.
  • Set a clear task e.g. ‘What speaking activity have you used recently that your students enjoyed? Please share it here saying what the task is and why you think the students enjoyed it’

How do you limit your own time commitments with the number of groups you have?

Khassoum makes sure he has time to rest. He chooses which sessions to attend, rather than attending all of them.

Tips:

  • Set time limits for discussions.
  • Share the forum with other trainers if possible.
  • Have cut off times in the day when the group is closed.
  • Turn off your phone or mute notifications for set periods.

Make sure you have boundaries.

How do you ensure that the group is democratic rather than autocratic?

They tried to have different people running the sessions, including volunteers from the group. Some people said that they wanted to run a session because they wanted to learn something – you don’t have to be the knowledgeable one.

Tips:

  • Invite teachers to set discussions or ask questions.
  • Inform the teachers you will be absent from the discussion for a set period. (Give them space!)
  • Set reflective questions e.g. ‘What was the biggest challenge you have faced with your class recently and how did you overcome it?’

Question from Khassoum: How do you think these ideas would work on a teacher training course?

  • Set ‘office hours’ and clear boundaries around topics e.g. no planning questions, no changing the topic mid-discussion.
  • Create and delete groups through the course e.g. Q&A for each assignment.
  • Set reflection tasks before feedback and sit out the discussion.
  • Flip training by setting questions or readings for input sessions. You can also encourage trainees to ask you questions: Tomorrow we’re going to talk about reading skills. What would you like to know?
  • Set observation tasks and run discussions during TP.

Q&A/Comments

Trainers really appreciated the chance to share responsibility and to learn from each other in the WhatsApp groups.

There is no obligation for people to join groups. Discussions can be weekly, monthly, or at random. In their platform, they have Friday discussions from 4-6pm, though sometimes people share questions at other times. (A little like the #eltchat hashtag on Twitter!)

Reflective elements could be done in L1 if the English level is too low to be able to reflect in English (e.g. A1/A2), even if the trainer doesn’t understand the language.

They can see that the WhatsApp groups are working, because they see people sharing the ideas in other contexts, such as in other groups they are members of, and crediting the ideas back to the WhatsApp groups.

Group work is possible in WhatsApp too – you can have a bigger group with everyone, and smaller groups for teachers/students which you’re part of. [Teaching via WhatsApp is a whole new world to me, and sounds very exciting!]

They share WhatsApp groups organically by creating flyers which can be shared by/with other teachers. There’s a lot of word of mouth.

Meeting local needs in contexts new to the internet – Joe Wilsdon

The internet gains 700,000 users every day. The African Union plans for every individual on
the continent to have internet access by 2030. With the assumption that English will remain
the global language, how can language teacher training meet local needs in countries and
cultures newly connected to the internet?

The internet is gradually becoming available to more and more people. Some initial discussion questions:

  • How has the internet changed your work as a teacher in your country?
  • Imagine you were training an online CELTA with candidate teachers from Nigeria, Pakistan and Canada. What, if any, information about their specific, local contexts would you want to know?
  • When the internet is available to the entire world, will a one-size-fits all course like CELTA be appropriate?

In some countries, internet use is on the phone, not on computers. It’s still possible to show images and short texts on phones around a large group – it’s not perfect, but it works.

The rural/urban dichotomy can often be a bigger difference than that between different countries.

The UN committed itself to as one of its infrastructure and development goals to ‘strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (goal 9C). This date has passed. Access to the internet is now possible from 97% of the world’s surface. But that doesn’t mean that everyone has access. Just 54% of the global population use the internet. In the least developed countries only 19% have online access. 2018 was the 50/50 point – when 50% of the global population had access to the internet.

What does it mean to have internet access? Within global development, it means to be able to access a device at some point that has the internet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody has it. If one person in the village has a device which they give other people access to, that can mean multiple people count as having internet access.

According to ourworldindata 27,000 people gain access to the internet per hour. One project to help increase internet acccess was Google’s Loon, though it was discontinued in January 2021. Facebook Aquila was another project. One key question is whether we want mega-corporations to be in control of internet access.

What does increased internet access mean? Increased opportunities for girls and women is just one impact.

How does the spread of the internet to more people influence the ELT industry?

In Northern and Western Africa, 141 million people are native French speakers. If only five percent of those people seek and pay for online English classes, that’s seven million new clients for the ELT industry.

More students means more teachers. More teachers means more trainers.

On the other hand, more people online means more choice for the consumer, which means lower prices, which probably means lower wages.

Joe’s advice is to specialise as much as possible. General English may well be coming to an end. By having to become an expert in a particular field, we probably have to become more professional.

What about linguistic imperialism? Philipson (1992 – Amazon affiliate link) argued that the spread of English is already:

  • Perpetuating native speakerism
  • Contributing to the death of languages around the world
  • Perpetuating a model of culture that is Euro-centric

Joe doesn’t say this is wrong, but doesn’t a globalised world need a globalised language? In recent decades, enormous gains have been made in lifting people out of poverty (slowly, uncertainly, hesitantly, but still). Would it be possible to have a globalised economy without a globalised language?

Some thoughts on the next 15-20 years:

  • The number of EFL teachers will grow rapidly.
  • The majority will be teaching both online and offline.
  • A proportion of them will come from countries where English is taught through traditional, teacher-centred methods and not communicative approaches. (Note: it’s not self-evident that communicative approaches have to be the best way to learn)
  • Exposure to a greater variety of international speakers through internet access will change people’s perceptions of which accents/dialects are considered acceptable.

What might need to change?

  • Qualifications must adapt.
  • EFL training could become adaptable according to the region from which the participants hail.
  • An increasing number of countries are teaching all subjects in English to VYL.
  • CELTA could pivot to prepare trainees to teach history, science and maths in English? A more CLIL approach.
  • CELTA could also be more specialised towards teaching adults in their professions.

In the discussion afterwards, there was a discussion of the risk of being colonial in marking speaking/writing exams. It’s a challenge that exam boards need to address. Intelligibility between candidates might be fine, but examiners might not find candidates intelligible and therefore mark them down.

Translanguaging, with the combination of English with other languages, will become increasingly common, so that people will still be able to participate in communication.

It’s raining on prom night – Giovanni Licata and James Egerton

The last 18 months have been momentous for teacher training. The online transition has not only meant reinventing the wheel in some cases, but also facing ever-present teacher training fears that had been more hidden in the 100% physical classroom CELTA. Our session will spin the audience through technical, cultural-educational and organizational moments where it felt like the rain was ruining prom night, but for which moves in the new dance must be mastered.

The idea of this presentation started a long time before COVID. It was about thinking about the problems that teachers have and how to deal with them. What do you do when you’ve been building up to somethign for a long time, then things don’t happen the way you expect them to?

Face to face or Mask to mask? There are challenges to teaching in person with COVID restrictions too, not just to teaching online. There can be restrictions on not moving from your chair, not being able to monitor – all adding extra challenges to initial teaching experiences. [You might find some useful ideas on socially distanced teaching here.]

Giovanni would like to see a lot more experimentation with using different physical environments within the same school, to give you the privacy that breakout rooms give you.

We should try to stop ourselves from thinking that everything was rosy before the pandemic. The pandemic has been an accelerator to the integration of technology in education, not a circuit break. The idea of going ‘back to normal’ isn’t a thing. We need to reconceptualise what is happening in our spaces.

  • Flexbiliity: We have the choice with the spaces we work in to be able to provide the best possible services for teachers and trainers. How can we combine and integrate these two worlds?
  • Collaboration: Working with centres around the world. Can we continue to share ideas and innovations in the way we have during the pandemic?
  • Integration of new ideas

Key concepts moving forward:

  • Assessment – being flexible
  • Cognitive flexibility – awareness, confidence and flexibility
  • Hybrid: Attention can’t be split – all students online or all students face-to-face. Mixed-mode could be better – some lessons of each.

Learning by doing: Replanning a methodology course to prepare for online teaching – Joanna Szoke

During COVID, I had to completely redesign a simple methodology course to give enough practical support to my in-service trainees in online teaching and learning. The aim was to equip them with skills they could use right away. The talk will look at the design principles of this “learning by doing” course and its main takeaways.

Jo teaches pre-service and in-service trainees at a university in Budapest. The course she’s talking about was called ‘Using ICT tools in the ELT classroom’ – it was designed for face-to-face classrooms. [I sympathise – I wrote a whole MA assignment on a two-week ICT course I was really proud of, but which didn’t mention online teaching at all. Doh!] In-service trainees were transitioning into online teaching. Pre-service trainees had their first ever experience of teaching online.

She had to redesign the course completely to meet their needs, expectations and requests. She wanted to provide efficient support to struggling trainees with minimal online teaching experience. Jo believes in learning by doing and the power of passing knowledge on. She thought that the in-service teachers would be able to pass the knowledge onto their colleagues too.

The course design process:

  • Identify their needs.
  • Find out what they have to do and how they have to do it. Environments, software, tools they have access to. Done through interviews.
  • Remove everything from the old course schedule to create a new course!

She wanted/needed to include:

  • Zoom and MS Teams
  • Interactive tools like Learning Apps and WordWall
  • Colloboration online

The course consisted of Zoom and VLE training (Google classroom), with autonomous and flipped components, and formative assessment. They got 5-minute long videos with tasks on Nearpod. They had open-ended questions at the end to serve as revision questions at the beginning of synchronous sessions. Formative assessment:

  • Flipped videos + required task+ optional tasks
  • Tasks in sync with the materials e.g. do a flipped lesson on Nearpod, then create a Nearpod lesson yourself; play a game on Wordwall, make one yourself
  • Option to resubmit improved assignments
  • Peer feedback

Nearpod allows you to track what people have completed. [There’s a guest post on it here.]

A journey through time – Abeer Ali Okaz

University total closure took everyone by surprise. Most of the training that PUA academics have previously received did not seem to fully help. This presentation focuses on the challenges that necessitated the change in the current training programme. It will take attendees through a journey to adjustment and survival, and provide tips gained from PUA’s experiment with online learning.

The University of Pharos has around 3500 students registered for English each year. Challenges they faced when the pandemic started:

  • No phone numbers or emails for students, so no way to contact them.
  • Burnt-out teachers.
  • Teachers without digital skills.
  • Connectivity issues.
  • Lack of access to devices.
  • Poor wellbeing.

They created 114 Google Classrooms for their students, but not everybody could join them. Teachers were anxious and didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know how to prepare, they couldn’t write on screen, there was a huge amount of information about possible resources, teachers couldn’t monitor all the students carefully…they had all been through the university’s training programme before the pandemic, including some observed training and peer and formal observation.

The university realised they had to stop and reassess the training programme. They knew blended learning wasn’t going to go away – they had to redesign for the situation and for the future.

They changed their approach to training:

  • Bottom-up – teachers can create training content and manage its delivery. They could suggest sessions, research and share with each other. The attitude to younger teachers training older ones changed amongst the teachers.
  • Smaller groups
  • Asking teachers via WhatsApp and Google Classroom what they needed.
  • Using Google Classroom and Padlet for content creation and ideas and tools. One team was responsible for each of these tools and collecting information to share on these platforms. The Padlet was open to all teachers to post ideas, comment on each other’s ideas and access them later too.
  • Helping the teachers to be responsible for their own learning and training other teachers handed over control, in the way that we want learners to be responsible. They surveyed teachers regularly to check that this met their needs.
  • They scheduled training based on priority and availability. The management was only facilitating – there was more reward for teachers from this approach.

Abeer believes that this approach will continue in the future – there were common goals, there has been a lot more interaction between teachers, morale has improved – teachers are very proud of the sessions they’ve done, and there is enhanced communication between teachers.

Final comments from Adrian Underhill

[This was an excellent way to end the conference – very positive! I may have missed some points, but here are many of them!]

The discontinuity of COVID has led to a huge amount of creativity. It’s amazing how we’ve managed to deal with this situation, and it’s released a huge amount of energy which this conference has showcased. The picture of training has become much more nuanced.

Core values are important – we’re not trying to be values free. We seem to be moving from ‘It works’ or ‘It doesn’t work’ to ‘I/We work’ – a much greater sense of agency and involvement, with a commitment to values and the expression of values.

We’re not just going into detail, but zooming out and looking at the big picture and questioning systems as a whole.

Interpersonal skills, as described by Chia, are the ground out of which everything else grows. We need to build trust and reduce distance. How do we talk about empathy? When Adrian started the TD group in 1986, he meant personal development for teachers. We need to think about How can we be more facilitative in our teaching?

How can we share power? Mentoring…Reflective practice… It’s great to see that in teacher training.

There’s a need for honesty and to be who we are. Sharing real experience, sharing insecurity, learning to forgive yourself and be less judgemental of ourselves so we can be less judgemental of others.

WhatsApp allows accessibility and communication, getting lots of people talking.

Flipped learning/teaching seems to have become more relevant than ever to maximise the use of synchronous time to have discussions and create meaning together, not just to go through facts.

Each can learn from the other: online from face-to-face and vice versa. We may see new potential in being online. It might not replace reading the room when you’re all together, but it might bring other things which we don’t recognise yet.

Leadership in ELT is a key concept too and was discussed today. Adrian gave a plenary on it at IATEFL 2012, but it’s taken a while to enter other parts of ELT. It’s about empowering others.

We can make a difference through training. We can be guided by meaning, values and people. With our ingenuity and energy, we can find ways of making a difference. We are connecting with the whole world. There’s hope for the future.

Innovate ELT 2021 – day one

These are summaries of the talks I attended during day one of the OxfordTEFL Innovate ELT online conference on 1st and 2nd October 2021. Day two is here.

Note: when I’ve included links, sometimes they’re the ones the presenter included, sometimes they’re others which I’ve found. If you’re one of the presenters and would like me to change any of the links, please let me know!

Plenary – Facing forward, looking back – Duncan Foord

What can we learn from looking at the history of ELT? I will be sharing my personal take on how I think we have done over the last 60 years, “Things that went well and points to consider…”

Duncan started by asking us whether we think that ELT is better now than it was 60 years ago, for English teachers or students. 92% think yes, nobody said no, 8% said don’t know (of 37 responses). Some of the reasons people gave:

  • More communicative
  • More research
  • Easier to access support from around the world
  • More student-centred
  • English more accepted as a lingua franca

Duncan’s reason for picking 60 years was that the pre-cursor to CELTA started in 1962, giving ELT a practical, hands-on qualification you could do to become a teacher: ‘ELT as craft’. ELT became a professional activity. We become teachers by actually teaching, not just studying it.

Another reason Duncan thinks ELT has improved is ‘the human touch’. We’re bringing humans together by enabling them to communicate with each other internationally. We see teachers and students working together across cultural boundaries that politics may not normally allow (e.g. US and Iranian teachers working together). An awareness of classroom dynamics and increased personalisation encourage learner-centredness, recognising learners as individuals, and making things more democratic through activities like pair- and groupwork.

The third reason is that there is there is a clear framework through the CEFR to make learners of where they are and where they’re going. This framework isn’t a list of grammar points, but a list of ‘can do’ statements.

A counterpoint is (was? around 2010?) a kind of ‘tech fetish’, pushing the craft of teaching to one side. He thinks that has calmed down now and that there is more of a balance between technology and craft, rather than technology taking over.

This gives us 3 C’s. We should aim to keep the dynamic of improving what we do (Craft), keep our strong sense of community (Community), and Coach learners in how to use materials and resources – we don’t have to bring all of the materials in ourselves.

Am I asking the right questions? – Teresa Bestwick

Why talk about questions? I could simply answer ‘Why not?’ but there are so many other reasons which we’ll explore in this talk. We’ll have a critical think about the types of questions we ask our learners, colleagues and the teachers we train, as well as those we ask ourselves.

When we start a session/lesson, we can have some questions on display to give attendees/learners something to think about. Questions can be:

  • Closed – yes/no
  • Open
  • Display – we know the answer, but we want the learners to demonstrate particular language they know.
  • Referential – I don’t know the answer to it, and I’m interested to find out more.
  • Convergent – limited number of answers.
  • Divergent – encourages the use of creativity, critical thinking skills etc.

Closed questions aren’t always bad. Sometimes they can be useful for checking understanding or language. Teresa shared three links to help people improve their ICQs and CCQs:

When we ask students a question, wait time is important. We need to make sure students have thinking time. We also need to give students the language to be specific about ‘I don’t know’:

  • I understand the question, but I don’t know the answer.
  • I know the answer, but I don’t know how to say it in English.
  • Language of speculation: Could it be…? Might it be…? Is it possibly…? allows students space to not have to be correct, and can be empowering.

Questions we ask students:

Questions encourage an answer.

Think about how you respond to content – don’t be insensitive by only focussing on language.

Never underestimate the power of follow-up questions.

Would you rather…? or If you were a… questions can be really motivating for students and prompt a lot of discussion.

Questions can be used as a behaviour management tool – pose a question to help learners notice their behaviour.

Use exit tickets [I’ve done this in the teen face-to-face classroom for the last two years, and it works really well – individual feedback for each learner, and a great way for you to check each person’s understanding.] Here are some more examples of EFL exit tickets:

  • One question I have about what we did today is…
  • Write three MCQs about today’s lesson.
  • Write two questions to ask me/your partner using the grammar or vocab from today.

Questions we ask ourselves:

When you have a problem, if you can turn it into a question, you can start looking for solutions.

Teresa mentioned Heron’s six categories of intervention, which she first came across in Duncan Foord’s The Developing Teacher [Amazon affiliate link / BEBC non-affiliate link]. She also recommend Rachel Tsateri’s blogpost. These are different ways of framing questions when helping yourself or others to reflect. Here are some of the questions stems you might want to use:

It’s important to ask ourselves questions to help ourselves to develop. These are some of the examples Teresa mentioned:

  • What do I love about what I do?
  • What am I looking forward to in my career?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What’s working for me?
  • What’s one area I’d like to improve in?
  • How am I developing this month?
  • How will this help me?

Teresa recommended two books:

The TEFL Development Hub

This is the community which Teresa is a co-founder of, with Simon Pearlman. They have a website and are on facebook. They post a question every Wednesday to get teachers thinking. Whenever anybody posts anything in the Hub, it has to be a question. Their weekly meetings are also based around questions.

A thought we were left with:

How to tell a story – Jamie Keddie

Good storytellers make it look easy. They might lead you to believe that it’s all about spontaneous, improvised performances. But don’t be fooled. Successful storytelling requires planning, reflection and attention to detail. In this workshop, I would like to share some basic principles that will allow you to develop your classroom storytelling skills. 

We’re not born being able to tell stories. It’s a skill we can get better at.

Jamie is talking about short stories from the teacher as a way to engage the students and get them doing things. He started off with a list:

  • Madame Tussauds
  • The Tower of London
  • Superman 2
  • The Egyptian mummies at the British Museum

We had to guess what the list was about, and then Jamie told us the story. Guessing first was a great way to get us engaged. He asked us what we thought he was most excited about – these questions kept us involved all the way through.

One of Jamie’s favourite themes is misunderstandings and miscommunications. He asked us if any of us had a story we wanted to tell about this. I got some useful feedback on my story 🙂 and enjoyed listening to others’ stories too.

He asked us about ingredients for successful storytelling. Often he gets answers related to performance techniques or teacher talk techniques, for example eye contact, pauses, body language. We suggested ideas like framing the story, personalisation, being concise, involving the audience. Jamie thinks we see storytelling wrong: we focus on the performance, rather than the preparation and process that goes into it beforehand to give the structure.

Sometimes we can ask too many questions in our stories as teachers. If we’ve got a good story, it’s naturally involving. Don’t just ask ‘Can you guess what it’s about?’ – give them some fuel to help them guess, like Jamie’s list at the start. Questions like ‘What do you think happened?’ ‘Why do you think he did that?’ – these are much stronger questions. After a good story, the listener might have unanswered questions – this isn’t a problem, it shows they’re engaged.

It’s useful to look for a ‘way in’ to the story, a ‘hook’. We don’t have to go in through the door of the story – we can break in through the window, go down the chimney, steal an elephant from the zoo and crash through the walls 🙂 These hooks can be useful for comprehension and to give the learners some help in understanding the story. It doesn’t have to be something super clever – it can draw attention to some of the content in the story, like giving them a title, key words, asking questions about a concept in the story (mine was about code-switching for example, so asking about this could work), lists…they can all help the students to make connections.

Set up can be very important – don’t neglect it, because this gives the context people need to understand the story. When preparing, think about how to draw attention to the details, and what order to mention them in. This can help to make the story more impactful. How descriptive can you get? Should you add more details? Or remove details? We can draw attention to certain information in the story, for example by pauses or by the order we mention things in.

To manage the time, students can record a ‘talking head’ video of their story, rather than telling their story live during the lesson.

If you’d like to find out more about storytelling and see examples, Jamie’s website is LessonStream. He also runs a storytelling course for teachers.

Teaching, Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Presences in Action – Tyson Seburn

The Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001) identified four aspects of enriching online educational spaces: teaching, cognitive, social, and (most recently) emotional presences. Twenty years later, these were thrust into action for everyone to varying degrees of success. But what are they? We’ll explore them here.

[I missed the start of this session]

Tyson is talking about asynchronous and blended courses.

To increase his teaching presence, Tyson uses:

  • Colours to show the students to guide them in what they need to do in online tasks. For example, highlighted in blue if they’re working in groups, highlighted in pink if they’re working alone.
  • Teaching tips to help the students use the medium better.
  • Emojis to show what is a handout, a recorded lesson, a task to complete etc.
  • Layout of the tasks – week one is a top-level heading, tasks that are part of week one are indented.
  • Have a forum where they can ask questions specifically.

Teaching presence can also come from students, not just the teacher.

  • Have roles for students within an activity / task.
  • They can answer each other’s questions about concepts / instructions.
  • Give peer feedback and evaluation.

Cognitive presence is about exploration. How are the students exploring the materials?

  • Vary engagement type, for example through different interaction patterns or different types of website/tool.
  • Encourage learners to contribute information.
  • Create spaces where the students need to make connections between different parts of the materials, and ask questions of the materials rather than just accepting what’s there.
  • Allow students to come to conclusions themselves, rather than supplying the conclusions to them. A reflective journal could be a good way to do this.

Social presence is about interaction and community. How can we can create spaces where students have to interact and give them opportunities to do so? How can we create a community where students feel bonded together and with the teacher?

  • Conversation and dialogue: how and where can we create these opportunities? Not just top-down, but students speaking to each other.
  • How can we humanise the experience of learning? For example, one teacher added a forum that they clicked through to where they were sharing pictures of their pets – this was a reward for those who were actually reading and checking the forums 🙂
  • Creating bonds and togetherness.
  • Encourage students to express (dis)agreements.

Tyson mentioned some different tools he’s played with, like Reface for some amusement (though I find this a bit disturbing!), or Padlet. Padlet has a map function to add pins to a map – not one I’d seen before.

Social presence could include giving the students conversational gambits which they can use in forums, for example for agreeing and disagreeing. This helps them to connect with each other.

Majeski, Stover and Valais (2018) added emotional presence to the list. This includes:

  • Emotional perception – can they recognise emotions?
  • Understanding – can they understand the emotions of others?
  • Faciliation – can they use emotions in a constructive way?
  • Management – can they recognise when emotions are causing disruption in their learning and think about strategies to deal with this?

The final presence is to some extent embedded in the other three presences which were proposed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000). These presences can help you in a range of ways:

These are Tyson’s references:

Demo Lesson – How to approach a text from an eco-linguistic perspective – Daniel Barber

The ecological issues we face call into question the stories we live by. Eco-linguistics offers teachers tools to examine the stories behind classroom texts. Do they teach compassion for the living planet? In this lesson, students will read and discuss a text through eco-linguistic filters to discover the underlying message.

One of the interesting features of Innovate ELT conferences is the live lessons with real students followed by guided discussion, but this is the first time I’ve made it to one. I thought it would be nice to go to something different something when attending this conference. I’ve also never really been sure about how to bring the environment into lessons where it’s not already present in the materials. There were students from all over the world: the Netherlands, Myanmar, Switzerland (but in Russia), Peru and Belarus. It was interesting to see somebody else teaching on Zoom, apart from anything else!

Daniel set up the lesson by showing students a picture of Christmas puddings in the shops in September in the UK. This was a prompt for a discussion about celebrations and the importance of celebrations in different countries.

The next stage was introducing the title of the article: 2021 Holiday Shopping Predictions: 3 Trends to Watch. This prompted a discussion about changes in students’ shopping habits over the last couple of years.

Throughout both of these stages, Daniel had a box on each slide called ‘Vocab notes’ where he added phrases that came up during the dicscussions.

There was a link to the text and a list of questions for the students to answer. I liked the layout of the slide (shown as a thumbnail below), with the text on the left and the questions on the right. Each paragraph of the text had a different coloured background, making it easier to read than if it was purely black on white (or at least, I think it was!)

After the comprehension stage, Daniel asked students to match hidden messages to specific parts of the text which he’d highlighted. For example, the line ‘The store shopping experience adds to the magic’ in the text could be match to the hidden message ‘Shopping is an exciting adventure’. There was also the idea that people were called ‘consumers’ throughout the whole text – we are only seen as people spending money.

At the end of the lesson, we had 10 minutes to chat to the students and ask them some questions about the lesson based around the idea of hidden messages in texts, questioning messages and assumptions we make individually and collectively, and the overall themes of the lesson. This idea of hidden messages in texts was interesting for me, as it’s not something I’ve really thought about working on with students before.

When we came back together as a whole group afterwards, the discussion was interesting with both students and teachers sharing ideas about the lesson. Daniel presented this as one way of encouraging students to think about messages in texts without falling into lecturing them on what they should think.

If you’d like to find out more about ecolinguistics, the Wikipedia article provides a useful starting point. There is a free online course called The Stories We Live By from The University of Gloucestershire and The International Ecolinguistics Association if you’d like to find out more.

This was definitely an interesting format, and well done to Daniel for putting himself out there by teaching a lesson with 11 teachers observing him!

The quiz

Day one ended with a quiz in the ‘Zoom garden’, which is a lovely idea. I’m off to join in now 🙂

Mentimeter and word clouds

On Thursday 7th May I did a 60-minute Zoom training session on how to use Zoom…meta! I worked with about 20 teachers from Urban School and other language schools in Barcelona, showing them how to use Mentimeter and word clouds in their online lessons, and in the process answering questions on a few other aspects of using Zoom. Thanks to Urien Shaw for organising it.

Mentimeter

We started by playing with Mentimeter, which is interactive presentation software.

I used an open-ended question displaying a flowing grid so we could get to know each other a little:

What's your name? What's one interesting thing about you?

To answer a question, participants go to http://www.menti.com and type the code from your presentation.

Here is a full list of all of the Mentimeter question types and how to make them. The Mentimeter blog has lots of ideas for how to use the different types of questions which are available, including lots of examples.

Multiple choice, word cloud, open-ended, scales, ranking, image choice, quiz, select answer, type answer

Here are some ways you can use Mentimeter in class:

  • Multiple choice
    Which (form of this) activity do you want to do? Gist reading/listening questions. How much time should I give you?
  • Word cloud
    Vocab revision, what vocab do you already know, word association as a lead in (i.e. what do you associate with this topic), produce examples of a grammar structure, what do you know about this person/thing/place, what do you remember from last lesson
  • Open-ended
    Brainstorming ideas, get feedback on your lessons, getting to know you, lead in to a topic, what do you remember about…, create example sentences using this grammar structure/word, correct the mistake
  • Scales
    Do you prefer X or Y? To what extent do you agree with this statement? How much do you like/enjoy…? For feedback on your lessons/particular activities…
  • Ranking (participants can only choose one option)
    Class survey of most/least popular anything (food, book, animal…)
  • Image choice
    Which holiday type/item of clothing/animal/celebrity/computer game… do you prefer?
  • Q & A
    Brainstorm questions for a guest speaker/the teacher/other students, what questions do you expect this reading text/audio/video will answer, what questions do you still have after watching/listening, what would you ask the person in the video…
  • Select answer – scores appear after these slides
    Any closed multiple choice quiz questions
  • Type answer – scores appear after these slides
    Open quiz questions where any answer is possible

The free account allows you to include an unlimited number of PowerPoint-style presentation slides, two ‘questions’ and five ‘quiz slides’. You can have an unlimited number of presentations, so if you need more of these slides in a single lesson you can just make more than one presentation.

Students can make their own questions, though they need to open an account to do this.

Word clouds

Next we used a word cloud to discuss ideas for doing feedback or error correction in online lessons. The ideas in this word cloud were taken from a workshop at IH Bydgoszcz a few weeks ago (thanks again to our great staff there!). I then showed how you can produce very different word clouds using the same input data with the simple insertion of ~ between words to keep them together. So these two things appear differently in a word cloud:

  • highlight problems and they rewrite
  • highlight~problems~and~they~rewrite

Words which appear more frequently in the source text appear larger in a word cloud, as can be clearly seen in the second word cloud above. www.wordclouds.com is my current favourite tool to produce word clouds.

Here are some ways you can use word clouds in the EFL classroom (the links take you to lessons on my blog using this idea):

  • As a lead in to a reading/listening, put the text/transcript into a word cloud and students predict what they’re going to see/hear.
  • Use the same word cloud afterwards for them to remember what they saw/heard.
  • Challenge students to find all the phrases in a word cloud.
  • As a prompt for students to remember particular grammar forms, e.g. comparatives and superlatives, or irregular verbs.
  • Use as a prompt for debates.
  • Ask students to create a story using the words in the cloud.
  • Students can ask you about vocabulary they don’t understand.
  • To show possible answers for a controlled task, once students have had a go at it themselves first.
  • Students can test each other by defining a word for others to guess.
  • To summarise ideas generated during the lesson.
  • Students make their own about a particular topic/place/person/thing.

Tips:

  • Make sure the words are spaced out as much as necessary for them to be clearly visible.
  • Use a legible font.
  • Ensure the contrast between text and background is clear.
  • Use a theme with various colours in it, rather than just one or two.
  • Check that words don’t run into each other if you need students to write them out in some form (for example, with the word cloud below one student wrote: crowdedsunny, more crowdedsunny, the most crowdedsunny, highlighting the mechanical nature of this task beautifully!)

I have lots of bookmarks connected to using word clouds: https://bit.ly/sandywordclouds and it’s one of the first things I ever presented about and wrote up on my blog, way back in February 2011. Writing this post was a trip down memory lane!

Questions (paragraph blogging)

Inspired by Matthew (again), as well as the lessons I’ve been teaching this week…

My current favourite getting-to-know-you activity to do with new students, especially 121s, is simply to get them to write a list of questions they want to ask me. With 121s I’ll write a list of things to ask them at the same time, so it doesn’t feel so awkward watching them write, and we take it in turns to ask them. 10 questions seems to work well in 121; in groups it’s about 5 each with students then selecting the ‘best’ from their lists. Questions are inevitably an area that students need to practise, regardless of their level. Students rarely form questions themselves, and are much more likely to answer other people’s/the teacher’s questions in the average lesson [I know I’ve read blog posts about this before, but can’t remember where – all links gratefully accepted].

The lists of questions students produce in this activity tend to show up the same kind of problem areas: present simple v. continuous, present perfect (or the lack thereof), word order, common mistakes (like Where are/did you born?), articles, etc, giving you a starting point for grammar areas to focus on. They may also throw up slightly more unusual problems: one of the ones I’ve noticed this week is capitalisation of ‘you’, following the Polish pattern of politeness, e.g. Where are You from? In addition, student-generated questions demonstrate which topics students are most interested in, as they tend to ask at least one or two questions about those areas. To push higher-level students to show off their grammar, especially if they’ve picked very simple questions to ask, you can encourage them to reframe one or two things from their list as indirect questions, and talk about politeness, especially if you’ve never met the students before.

Of all the things this activity makes me consider though, I have to say the oddest thing is how often the question How old are you? comes up in a typical student list. It’s one of those things students often ask at the start of lessons without thinking twice, though I’m pretty sure they would be unlikely to ask it that quickly if they were meeting people at a party or a conference!

Have you tried this kind of activity? Do you have a similar experience of it?

Stop asking me questions!
Based on an ELTpic by @ij64 (I believe!)

Family names

A very quick question which has been annoying me for a while: why do we (or our coursebooks) teach our students to say ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘grandmother’, ‘grandfather’ as the main way of discussing these members of our families? This was a conversation I had with a 10-year-old a couple of days ago:

Me: What’s your mum’s name?

Student 1: What?

Me: What’s your mum’s name?

Student 2: Mum? Mother?

Me: Yes, what’s your mother’s name?

Student 1: My mother is Alena.

I know there are lots of different variations on the names for these people, but surely it’s more useful for students to know that ‘mum/mom/mam’ are more common in informal speech than ‘mother’ for example. I only use ‘mother’ when I’m talking to a student who didn’t understand ‘mum’ or when I’m being sarcastic 😉 And I don’t think I’ve ever referred to ‘my grandfather’ or ‘my grandmother’ in a normal conversation.

What do you think? (By the way, I’m prepared to be proved wrong…)

A gratuitous photo of me and my mum :)
A gratuitous photo of me and my mum 🙂

Questions for micro-dictations

I’m putting together some activities to help students understand more fluent English speech, ready for a seminar on listening skills I’m running next weekend.  One of the activities is micro-dictations of common questions spoken at as normal a speed as possible. It can be difficult to find things like this ready-prepared, so I’ve recorded some and embedded them here:

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

What do you do?

What are you going to have?

What are you going to do tomorrow?

Did you have a good holiday?


Listening attentivelyI’d be interested to hear how you use them.

A map of me

With continuous enrolment, we get new students joining our classes every Monday morning, if they change from another class, on a Monday afternoon, when they’re new to the school, and sometimes on a Tuesday morning too, if they only have morning classes! This means that we’re constantly trying to make sure our students get on well together, and I’m always trying to find new getting to know you activities that still motivate and interest the students who’ve been in the class for weeks.

This is what I used a couple of weeks ago:

Mind map

 

  • Ask students in pairs/small groups to decide what the connections are between the items on your own mind map.
  • Each pair/group writes three questions to find out more about the connections.
  • They then create their own mind maps – give them about 10 minutes, as it takes a while to get a good mind map.
  • Finally, they mingle and ask and answer questions about each other’s mind maps.

My students spent about 90 minutes on the whole process. I copied their mind maps and learnt a lot about my students in the process, something which isn’t always easy in a most of the getting to know you exercises I use. I even found out which of my students were great artists!

Starting the Delta

No, not time travel. Instead, a few questions for Chris Wilson, who’s about to start the Delta. He’ll be dedicating his blog, elt squared, almost exclusively to Delta for the duration of his course. Here are my questions and his answers:

  1. Why did you decide to do Delta?

    As soon as I heard there was a higher level teaching certificate than the Celta, I knew I wanted to get it at some point. I heard that I needed two years teaching experience, something that I am grateful for, but I knew I didn’t want to be a “base-level” teacher, although since then I’ve realised there are plenty of great teachers who haven’t done the Delta but still have learnt a lot over time.
    I wanted to really know why I should teach in a certain way and how to craft better lessons. I guess I also just love learning about language, teaching and how the brain works. Really I just want to know more about teaching and help people more.

  2. How are you going to do it? Why did you choose this method?

    I’m doing a modular distance Delta, which means I’m taking each module on it’s own when I want, fitting them in as I can. This was largely a practical decision tying in with the financial help that I could get from my school, but also because of difficulties in finding a local tutor for module two. I am probably going to have to do module two intensively at a local centre because of that.
    Also I’m interested in taking a closer look at how the distance delta does the distance learning aspect of the Delta so our school can hopefully steal some ideas too 🙂

  3. How much do you feel you know about the course before you start?

    I feel I know quite a lot about the course thanks to ELTChat and the recent “How to survive the Delta” discussion (and the previous “what has the delta ever done for us” one). I’ve also spent the last few months just asking people who had done the course lots of questions. At the same time I don’t know anyone who has done it the way I am about to, so I’m still unsure how it will go!

  4. How have you prepared for the Delta?

    I’ve been asking a lot of questions, blogging for professional development and getting my note-taking system in order. At the same time we’ve been really busy here at work recently (and I’ve been finishing off a few projects that I want to get done before the start of the Delta) so perhaps erratically would be the best adverb 🙂

  5. What do you think will be the most useful part of the course?

    I am really looking forward to all of it, to be honest, and I am sure it will all be useful. I can’t wait to up my game in both knowledge of terminology and methodology, conducting a research project and lesson observations. In all honesty the lesson observations and classroom practice probably scares me the most and so is probably the part that will be most useful for me.

  6. What will be the most difficult part?

    I think it’s connected to the point above, class observations. I am quite clumsy and forgetful at the best of times but with stress I know I can slip up more and take longer to recover.

  7. Anything else?

    I guess thanks to everyone who has helped with their advice and recommendation in relation to the DELTA. I hope you don’t mind me asking a few more questions over the coming months!

I’m looking forward to following Chris’ blog over the next few months, and even more, to the end of my own Delta on June 5th! This post is, in fact, procrastination, as I’m supposed to be getting ready for the third of my four observed lessons. Hope you found it interesting!

Chris' new friend?
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @senicko, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Immigration: Belongings

Last week I stumbled across an excellent photo article from the New York Times about immigrants to New York City and the objects they choose to bring with them. This is the lesson I created based on the article, but it is full of other possibilities too. I hope you find it useful, and I look forward to hearing what you decide to do with it.

Immigration belongings screenshot

I started off with the powerpoint presentation below. I displayed it on the interactive whiteboard, but you could print off the pictures and put them around the room instead. First, students were asked to speculate on what is in the pictures, and naturally they focus on the objects. Next, I asked them what links the pictures together, accepting any suggestions. I then told them that these were objects which immigrants to New York City brought with them. I then asked them to make notes about their thoughts on the gender, nationality, age, job and family of the owners of each object.

[To download, click ‘view on slideshare’. You may have to log in (not sure), but it’s completely free. You should then be able to click on ‘download’ above the document.]

I then gave the students the texts and asked them to read quickly to match each text to the photos. Some of them needed quite a lot of persuading to skim read and not try to understand everything!

You can find the correct answers by looking at the original article online. The students then had to check their predictions about the people by reading the text in a bit more detail. When a colleague reused the materials, she added a worksheet with a table with spaces for each item of information, which worked better than the notes which my students made.

In the penultimate step of the two-hour lesson, I divided the ‘stories’ up around the class, so that each pair of students had two people to read about. They had to create three to five questions about each person, not including the information we had already talked about (nationality, job etc) and write them down.

Finally, they mingled and asked the other students their questions.

For homework, I asked them to choose a story from the comments board, take notes on it and bring them to class the next day to tell the other students about.

A couple of days later I was working on relative clauses with the same class, and created the following gapfill to help them practise which relative pronoun to use:

The texts could also be used to practise narrative tenses, reported speech, time phrases and much more. You could also use it to lead into a discussion on immigration.

Enjoy!