Sharing is Caring.

After returning home from Glasgow and going over my notes another time, I stumbled over some websites and ideas I wanted to share with you as I found them quite useful for future English lessons, whether you just start out as a teacher or whether you’ve been in the business for quite some time already. 🙂

M-Reader
M-Reader is a website that caters to the purpose of Extensive Reading. After registering on this website, the students can answer quizzes related to Graded Readers they have recently read. A certain word limit can be set, which the students have to achieve. Should they pass the quiz they took, they further get a badge (the book cover appears on the front page of M-Reader), indicating their success.
I personally thought this idea was brilliant, as it gives you a quick overview of who has done their reading and who met a particular goal that you have set your students concerning the quantity of reading.
One thing that has to be considered, however, is the possibility of cheating if the quiz is completed at home. You would have to come up with ideas on how to go against this. The speaker had the idea of offering the students three dates in a week to complete their quizzes during class so no cheating could ensue. However, the classroom situation and number of English classes differed severely to the Austrian system, so maybe you would have to think of other ideas.

Lingro
Lingro is a website to translate websites into different languages. You simply enter the URL of another website such as BBC and you get the actual interface but with a twist – whenever you click on a word, you get a translation and definition of the word you just clicked on.
The speaker in this particular workshop highlighted that it would be best if there were monolingual translations only, meaning you just get definitions of the vocabulary you were curious about.

Visual Dictionary Online
Visual Dictionary Online might be especially interesting if you teach (or will teach) English in specific contexts, mainly technical ones. You can enter a word into the search bar and get a picture of said object with a full explanation of all parts needed for the object. Let’s say we need to know all parts of a dishwasher. You just enter “dishwasher” into the search bar and are presented with a detailed draft on all the important parts in a dishwasher.
This dictionary also offers the categories of animals, the human body, earth, astronomy, plants and gardening, food and kitchen and a lot other pictures. It is definitely worth looking at!

Vocabulary Games
This website offers a vast amount of vocabulary games in English – you just have to look around and maybe something is just what you’ve been looking for in terms of vocabulary games!

Teaching Well-Being to Students
This is a talk I attended during the conference that I found very useful. The speaker’s ideas were very nice and easily incorporable into your lesson plans. With a few quick ideas and tricks, your students’ well-being might just rise, allowing greater learning successes to take place.

Feedback Ideas
This last link brings you to a folder on 8 different feedback ideas you could also incorporate into your English teaching. These feedback ideas cater to different needs of your students (e.g. dyslexic students, students who are colour-blind…) so you would have to check all of them out to see if any worked well for your particular class, but all in all I found these ideas quite useful for my future teaching.

I hope I could help you at least a bit with the links provided (or I will help you in the future sometime) as well as my short explanations of all websites. As always – having more possibilities and more material is always good. 🙂

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Who do I think you are? – A guide to meeting new people at a conference.

One thing your parents have taught you is being polite. Well, at least my parents were VERY keen on doing so. Next to being polite and something completely different is being an extrovert. Something I proud myself being. I love meeting new people, talking to them, letting them tell their stories to me and telling them stories myself. So the IATEFL conference actually is a dream come true. Good talks, an excellent atmosphere and amazing people to meet. Sitting down for lunch and just start talking to the people sitting at your table. Sitting down for a talk or workshop and start an introduction round between you and the person nearest to you (helps if you’re not playing the lone wolf sitting in the very back of the room). Going around the exhibition and finding a lonesome stranger standing around for you to approach and start a conversation with. Maybe just open the door for them (or keeping it open) and trying your best to be as polite as possible.
Those are the strategies of getting to know people that worked best for me. On the quest I called “Make as many new acquaintances as possible” I did get to meet quite some interesting people. There was Elona from the Netherlands whom I met in the Exhibition hall and had a lovely talk with. There was Maria, whom I met whilst drinking my coffee in Hall 5. There were three women (sadly I did not get their names) whom I and Lisa met during our lunchbreak just sitting at the table with.

And then there were some meetings with people I never thought that would happen.
On the first day during a talk I sat next to a lovely woman who was a very avid talker and loved telling me everything she recently did in Russia. During this conversation, however, she started mentioning how she got photographed over and over again and more and more people wanted to have a photograph with her. To say the least – I was confused. I had never seen this woman and apparently, she was a quite well-known short story writer! (And I am very sorry but I could not remember her name. Maybe it will come to me again, then I will inform you asap!)
My second interesting meeting was not planned at all, it was just an act of me trying to be polite and beating the stereotype that Brits were the most polite people. Stefan, Lisa and I did leave the SECC to go change building, when I saw a lady approaching, heading in the same direction as we did. As I tried to be polite, I held the door open and asked her if she wanted to join us. (Sadly, I did not get a reply on that question.) Turning back to my colleagues, both were staring at me as if I had just told them aliens were real or something, although I had no clue why. I just tried to be polite! Well, it then turned out that the woman I opened the door for was Penny Ur, a very well-known and appreciated author in the field of educational books, therefore somewhat of a celebrity. (By the way: It’s actually Ur, meaning the German pronunciation and not the typical British one. The explanation I got for that was because she does not want her name to sound like a hesitation marker. Understandable, really.)
Because it’s always best of three, I then did encounter Jeremy Harmer whilst waiting for Lisa (although I did wait for nothing as seemingly, she had left before me). Because I could not let him leave without having said a word to him I quickly complimented him on his amazing workshop he did with Jane Revell. He was quick to join in on the small-talk and asked me which talks I have attended afterwards, although I could not really think straight anymore after my brave first question. I leave it to you whether that was because of being near a well-kwon person or because of the sheer endless stream of information my head was trying to warp itself around.

The cherry on the top then was another encounter with a famous person in the circle of ELT teachers (although I just might be a bit biased here). Sarah Mercer, everybody! After her amazing plenary speech, Graz and the ELT department, but most importantly Sarah herself, was in the spotlight and on the map for many of the people at the conference! And who knows, maybe this leads to more opportunities, more visits and more talks of quite interesting people. (A little birdie even told me that a few people showed interest in visiting Graz and doing a talk at our university.)

Meeting new people can be exciting if you are brave enough to jump over the first hurdle and just speak to them. We are all teachers, we are all in the same boat and we share one passion – a language. And with a little bit of luck, who knows whom you will hold the door open for or talk to whilst waiting on someone?

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P.S.: Sorry for not taking any pictures with any of the people mentioned in that blog. Although I am quite forward I feel uncomfortable asking for photos. (I am ore of a building, flower and animal photographer, really.) So please enjoy a picture of our debriefing session during the lunch break, where we tried to make sense of a workshop by building beautiful patterns out of paper. On this photo, by the way, you can see more people I am very glad I got to meet or get to know just a bit better on this conference.

How to get the most out of this…

…conference? …blog post? …experience?

We as teachers like to ask WH-questions. WHAT did you see? WHAT did you like? WHO did you meet? WHO did you like? WHERE did you go? HOW do you like it so far?
Okay, the last question might not be one of the WH-questions, but it’s most definitely one of the questions that seem to be posed quite often at the moment. Folks, the Graz IATEFL group has officially arrived in Glasgow! (Who would have guessed? Maybe the 7 billion blogposts before mine spoiled these news a bit? Yes? No? Maybe. Also – look at me go with my WH-questions!)

So, we have finally arrived in Glasgow yesterday and today we had our first day as part of the the annual 51st IATEFL conference. Feeling energised from the atypical sunrays on our faces (see evidence no. 1, the header picture) our whole group visited the first plenary session (and the official opening of the conference), where Gabriel Diaz Maggioli spoke about Professional Development and how to achieve this in a school. Some ideas that he gave us included starting small pilot projects on our own or even creating your own Professional Development strategies that are adapted to your school’s needs and possibilities.

After this large plenary session, our group dissolved into little groupings and everyone at least tried to make the most out of this conference. (That was, by the way, the title of one of the first sessions, which nobody of our group managed to attend first thing in the morning as some difficulties arose.) I personally decided to listen to Jeremy Harmer and Jane Revell next, who did their workshop (if you can call a group of 480 people a workshop…) with the title “Telling and retelling: the magic of stories in ELT”. In this workshop, the team discussed the method of PLOT, where each letter stands for a method on how to work with stories. The P stands for Predict the story, the L correlates with Listen to (or to read) the story, the O refers to Operate on or retell the story and the T finally stands for telling your own story. So – PLOT. A nice abbreviation. We then continued talking about the movie “The Wolfpack” (which seemingly is an amazing film, also for school) and discussed the poem “The Sound Collector”, which offers a large range of activities that you can do with your students.

My next session was on Motivational Marking and the Magic Egg, held by Michael Mooney. He spoke of the magic egg process, where students don’t write about the content they want to include in their texts but rather think about the structures first before even dealing with the content. These structures, therefore, can be found in the magic egg. What I found very interesting in this session is his idea of starting to raise awareness on writing as well as the fun in writing by using a method or website called Mad Lips. Here, you get certain questions or words which you have to enter into prepared spaces. Afterwards, a classic text is rewritten and your chosen words are entered in the story. This is something that I most definitely want to try out with my students in the future!

The next amazing talk I went to was about creativity in the language classroom and how to promote creative thinking when dealing with young learners aged 5 to 12 in the beginning stage of their learning of English. The speaker offered five pillars of Creativity and an example activity for each one, which I want to quickly mention as I do believe that it is something you can use within your classroom as well.

1) Build your learners self-esteem: Here the method mentioned was the so-called CIRCLE TIME, where students sit in a circle and talk about certain topics after being presented with a prompt. (e.g. I feel happy when…)
2) Offer choices: The speakers example here was a Lesson Menu, where students can chose which tasks from a given list they want to do in school or at home as well as in which numbering
3) Use effective questions: Especially WH- questions should be asked to offer the students the best opportunities. What is important here is to allow them time to think about their answers and don’t rush them.
4) Make connections: Here you have simple comparative moments. (“A book is like a sandwich because…”)
5) Explore ideas: The main tasks with this last pillar would be an “Imagine that…” or a mini debate on a chosen topic.

Here the speaker also provided us with works where he got his information from, including a PDF document from Maley and Peachey, sporting the title “Creativity in the English Language Classroom” that can be found online.

Now you may be asking – Alex, how many more workshops did you actually go to in just one measly day? Don’t fret dear reader, there still is plenty to come. (It’s two more, don’t worry.)

The next workshop I did go to, and this time even with a colleague of mine so I wasn’t alone all the time, was a workshop by Edward de Chazal with the catchy title “Lose those words: how to write shorter, more effective texts”. (Didn’t help much, apparently.) In this workshop, we did edit a text from 300 words down to 100 words by using 7 explicit methods that you should apply to get your perfect abstract, homework or paper. His Pro Tip in the end, however, was what was the most striking to me (and not because it was the funniest part ever). If you would change the size, the font and the colour of the text, then the whole document – apparently – looks as if it were written completely now.

The last talk I did go to was on Extensive Reading and ideas on how to make that work. Sadly, because of strict time management, we did not go over the examples behind the given theory. So I cannot offer any practical advice but to let your students choose their books on their own and to make them read for fun and do not test them on how much they actually read. Also, the difficulty level should be at least one level below the actual language level to ensure fluent reading (which is established if students know 98% or more).

To conclude, this first day of my conference was tightly packed with information and courses. I am looking forward to the next sessions tomorrow. lso – we got cupcakes on our last tour around the materials fair. And they were amazing. Can you see the sheer happiness on my face? Coffee and cupcakes. Total success!

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But… How can you actually make the most out of the conference and this blog post? Well, if you have any questions or want any more details on something mentioned in the blog please do not hesitate to use the comment section or send me a quick mail and I can send you all the information that I have collected during the workshops and talks described here.

To end this blog on a lighter note I wanted to include a quotation taken from William Arthur Ward (or at least that’s what the calendar said when I read the quote on the condiments table whilst pouring myself a coffee) that fits the purpose of this blog and the conference, in my opinion:

Teaching is more than imparting knowledge, it is inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts, it is acquiring understanding.

Of thistles, armadillos and pink trainers.

What do these three things have in common, you ask? A random cluster fluff of weird words all mushed together? Well, I’m glad you did.

The thistles and the armadillos represent Glasgow, the city in which the conference is held this year. A city that is full of life (even without a conference of 2,500 people) and fun, of shopping and of pubs.
But what about the pink trainers? Don’t worry, there is no building in Glasgow that is in the form of trainers nor any that is painted pink – there are no pink busses in sight either, just to be clear and take away the fear of a few British politicians concerning female Prime Ministers.
Trainers are typically used in situations in which you do not want your feet to hurt. (Prime examples here are shopping, sports and conferences). A conference is no fun if you can’t enjoy it because you have to sit down every five minutes. And because pink just so happens to be the colour that I have chosen my trainers to be in, those ominous pink 13275700_1082018778503446_1465634264_ntrainers actually refer to me! (Who would have guessed?)

Hiya, I’m Alex, I am going to the IATEFL conference in Glasgow this year, and I am going to be your host for tonight. Today. Whenever you read it. Hi! (That’s me on the right side, by the way.)

So – what do I personally expect from this conference?
Blisters. Loads and loads of blisters to start off with. And if not from running from one conference room to the other then from exploring the beautiful city that is Glasgow, enjoying its culture and food, its pubs and its people. And just maybe also its shopping facilities. Because when in Glasgow – go shopping. That’s what they say, no? (But do not worry – preventative measures have been taken already. I have bought enough blistering plasters to last me a lifetime, so I should be fine.)

But what’s more important from an educational perspective – and most definitely more enjoyable than the blisters – I expect to make loads of new friends and to meet loads of colleagues from around the world. One possibility, for example, is the International Quiz, in which I want to take part in and where my competitive nature will come up. For me it’s all fun and games until winning is involved – then it’s going to be do or die. And as you know, all is fair in love and war. Beware the Alex during quizzes, peeps, trust me. It’s for your own safety.
I also expect to make great new experiences with English as a foreign language and to get insights and new ways of thinking that are completely new to me. I love didactics and thinking of all the methods that I could do in class with my future students. (One workshop that should be especially useful is the one on how to shorten your texts. I am not good at writing short texts. Example number 1 – this introduction.)

So plenty of things to look forward to and I am already extremely excited to see how my expectations are going to be met during the conference!