So on Friday was our last day at the conference. In the morning we went to the plenary session of Jane Settler, a linguistics professor at the University of Reading. The title of it was “Where angels fear to tread: intonation in ELT” and she talked about how intonation works in English and which aspects are teachable and learnable.. Just at the beginning she told us that this was the first ever plenary session about pronunciation – so that’s quite special! 😉
She opened her plenary with one important statement: “Pronunciation is very important for communicative issues but the problem is, that it’s less teachable”. I think she’s quite right about that. Teaching pronunciation is, in my opinion, very important to communicate properly, but the question is, how should we best teach it? I think every teacher has to find their own way to teach pronunciation.
She showed us a super sweet video about two babies, who were communicating with each other just via intonation. This shows us that even little kids who are not yet able to speak, hear different intonation patterns which indicate different words. She also told us that unborn babies can’t hear individual speech sounds but they can already hear intonation.
She also did some interesting studies about Chinese and Arabic speakers of English recently, so if you’re interested you can read them online on www.peps-c.com.
I could write like a hundred more words about her talk because I found it very interesting and informing, but to be honest, we as students already know most about it through our pronunciation classes. So I won’t bore you with that. 😉 (for those who are interested, you can reach her via social media. Facebook: English Language, Applied Linguistics and ELT at Reading; Twitter: @Jane Settler, @UniRdg_EngLang; Blog: aworldofenglishes.blogspot.co.uk; Youtube: Jane Settler (channel) )
After the plenary session we had a quick meeting to talk about the conference and some organisational things and then I went on to a talk by Graham Skerritt about “Homework that works: getting the most from online practice”. I think this was a very very interesting talk because he really gave us useful instructions how to use online homework. Nowadays it is just normal to let students do their homework online, but if you haven’t done that before, you and your students will be completely lost. Thats why I want to share the most important points you have to think of with you:
Getting most from online practice:
- make sure everyone can use technology
- Give clear instructtions, demonstrations, model answers
- Advise students about how to study online
- Connect homework to classroom work
- Teach students how to communicate online
- Respond promptly to students questions (so that they don’t get stuck when they have problems)
- Give good feedback
- Monitor & support students (show them that you care about them!)
In his opinion online homework is more efficient, but I cannot agree with that a hundred per cent. I agree that it gives clear written instructions, provides a deadline, is marked immediately and highlights the importance, but I think it is not very personalized. Moreover the students only get feedback from a computer and not from their teacher, who will then mark their tests. But it can be of course very beneficial.
For those of you who are interested, Graham Skerritt recommended a guiding book for online practice, “Blended Learning for Language Teaching”. There you can read up some interesting things about cyber learning.
The last workshop I attended on Friday was “Using music (not songs) in the language classroom” by Hanna Kryszewska. This was also a very interesting session. She showed us different activities how to use music effectively in a classroom. These were all activities which were really funny and also good to use in a classroom. One activity we did was describing a video to a person. We got together in pairs, one person standing with the back to the video, the other one facing it. The person who faced the video had to describe what happenes in it to their partner and after 2 minutes, they switched. In my opinion this is a very useful activity because we can easily get our students to talk and moreover they have lots of fun.
So after one week at the conference, I can really say that this was one of the most amazing and interesting weeks ever. It was so informative and I gained lots of new knowledge. I would really advise everybody to attend this conference at least once. You will get to know so many people from different parts of the world, talk to them and learn from them. I am more than sure that this year’s IATEFL conference wasn’t my last one. You definitely have to go there – it’s just awesome!
Big thanks to Ulla Fürstenberg, Sarah Mercer and Elke Beder for making this possible!!