Conference insights

Everyone asked us students whether we were enjoying the conference. I am of the opinion that everyone of us answered – honestly – with what normally one has to say when someone asks you to marry you: “I do!”. To begin with, I loved the plenary speeches. The best were definitely J. J. Wilson’s and Sarah Mercer’s talks. They were so inspiring and motivating for us as future teachers. Especially Sarah focused also on the strength of the teacher which everyone of us likes – praising oneself. J.J. Wilson’s talk was about social justice. Not only is this topic important in our career where we might have to deal with children from different backhgrounds… He also managed to persuade us. His presentation was so good because of his stories and jokes that I would have believed him everything. Since I am quite a romantic person I was really caught by the fact that he presented a poem which he absolutelly loved… And he told us that he found this text so good that he decided to marry the writer of the poem. How romantic is that? 😍 However, I did not only like the plenaries, I also liked most of the other presentations. I just want to mention the talks about pronunciation. All of the presentors of those speeches were so entertaining and since we in Austria don’t really focus on pronunciation, I found some ways about how we still could integrate this competence as well into our teaching. We learned that it is not so important if you as a teacher speak an accent as long as you are consistent and self-confident in the use.

If I had to find one word that describes the conference, I would pick the word inspiring. I think that especially the plenaries were really motivating and encouraged us as future teachers again and again. I was so reinforced in my decision of becoming a teacher so I don’t think that we will struggle a lot after having seen the motivation and fun at this conference…

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The usual behaviour at the conference: some are heading to a talk or workshop, others are returning from a forum and everyone is happy about having the possibility to see this event.

 

Our last day at the IATEFL conference

Our last day here in Glasgow started off with rain and pronunciation. The plenary talk in the morning was rather uneventful in comparison to the other ones we’ve heard. Jane Setter talked about the importance of intonation and introduced us to the three Ts: tonality, tonicity and tone. Many of the things she talked about we had already familiarised ourselves with in our Advanced Pronunciation courses. The baseline was that Tonicity (element of focus) is learnable/teachable, but it’s very difficult.

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Afterwards we had a short meeting with the group where we discussed upcoming publications… 😉 Then a few of us where set on attending sessions at the Crowne Plaza Hotel when suddenly the fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated. Luckily, no one was hurt and we quickly found a replacement for our session.

That replacement session opened our eyes to the various ways of dealing with literary classics in school. The focus was on cross-mediality. Max von Blanckenburg explained that the various adaptions of classics should be used in the classroom more frequently, not to challenge the original text, but to broaden the understanding of the work and construct meaning. He also challenged our views by saying that learners don’t even need to read the same text. Using different version of a classic in different media-forms can help cater to students’ preferences and abilities. It can also bring new perspectives to a classic and foster multi-literacy. During such a reading project a teacher should define meeting points for everybody along the storyline to make sure all the students are on the same page. Of course using multiple cross-media versions of a text is a lot of work for a teacher, however, it has many positive effects that easily outweigh the additional workload. First of all, students can have a say in what adaptation of a text they’d want to read, which is also very motivating. Secondly, students can read in and out of class and such reading projects provide new material for discussions and opportunities for reflection.

The last session of the conference for us was about “Teaching with Tremendous Tongue Twisters”. In this workshop a nice Estonian/Dutch lady introduced us to creative ways of using tongue twisters in class. Did you know, for example, that the British Council website has its own section for tongue twisters? Here’s one of them: Kitty caught the kitten in the kitchen. (Say that three times fast J) We were told how to include tongue twisters in Grammar lessons and how to use them for vocabulary building and pronunciation practice.

Here’s a few tips on how you too could use them:

  1. READ IT word by word, student after student, three times in a row and get faster every time
  2. READ MY LIPS: choose one word and mouth it without sound and let your students guess what it is. You can also do that in groups where students have to guess each others’ words.
  3. ADAPT: change verbs, nouns, names, plural/singular forms or just add adjectives depending on your needs. You can also let them make up their own tongue twisters.
  4. START FROM THE END
    g. kitchen
    the kitchen
    in the kitchen
    kitten in the kitchen
    the kitten in the kitchen
    caught the kitten in the kitchen
    Kitty caught the kitten in the kitchen
  5. CREATE STORIES based on your tongue twisters.

The great thing about tongue twisters is that they aren’t just fun but also work with all ages and are easy to include into your lesson.

With this language adventure we officially ended our conference experience on a high note and went on to explore the beautiful Glasgow.

xx Marcella and Julia

Travelling through Space and Time

If anyone is wondering how life would have been as a teacher years ago, the Scotland Street School Museum is just the right for you!

Yesterday, Verena and I decided to check it out and we were both gripped and delighted by that highly interesting museum. The building used to be a school during the 20th century and was designed by Charles Mackintosh. After its closure in 1979, it was restructured as museum, where school classes from different periods of time can be seen.

Typically designed classes from Victorian age, the 50s and the time of the Second World War are exhibited in that former school. In particular, the class of the Second World War caught our attention since I did not know how the war really affected schools and teachers. I must confess that it was a little bit oppressive to read through all the stories, told by former students who visited that school during the Second World War. Also the fact that the students had to wear gasmasks in boxes around their neck was pretty scary… Still, it gave a great insight into the historical background of British schools.

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By the way, the classrooms can also be rented for some hours by schools. So, if you have time and money left at the end of a school year, you can go there with your class and react a typical school day in former times.

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Funny fact at the end: Boys and girls were not allowed to visit the same classes. They even had to play on different playgrounds during the breaks. They even had separate entries for school!!!!!!! (on the picture above we can see the entry for BOYS) Weeeeeeiiiird Past!!!!! 😛

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Last day…

After a lot of good talks and even better plenary sessions it is our last day at the IATEFL conference. The day started with a talk about intonation. Jane Setter is a great speaker and told us how important it is to teach intonation. She even provided us with some fun ways to do it:


If you are interested in more songs you can find her on YouTube.


My second session was “Let’s listen to the learners” by Brian Thomas. He talked about giving students more choice. Give them several activities so they can choose one or let them find a text to read in class. His time management was not the best so we could not hear the end of his session. So next time you teach and your time management is a bit off, don’t freak out, it happens to the best… 😉


The best talk of the day was “Motivational teaching” by Nicholas Thorner, not only because he started his session with handing out chocolate to motivate us but also because he had some brilliant tips for us. He talked about how studetns can be motivated and how demotivated students feel.


He also mentioned that simple tricks like a good task sheet can help them. If you have a easy starter exercise they can finish easily it will help them gather motivatin for the more involving exercises. Also include some rewards if they hand in homework several times in a row.


And for teachers it can help to make your lesson plans look more fun. The one he showed us is also avaliable online, if you can’t read it on the picture.


Nicholas Thorner has also written a book if you are interested in more tips. Motivational Teaching.

My last workshop of the day was about TED talks. If you want to read more about that you have to read Christina’s post. 

Final Talks

Our last day began a little bit cloudy and rainy. Therefore we took a cab to the SEC and then filled up places in the last planery session with Jane Setter. She talked about Intonation and how important it is to teach it to our students.

First she gave insight in how intonation works and what tonality, tonicity and tone mean. Her focus layed on the intonational phrase (IP) which is determined by loudness, length and pitch. She continued her presentation with several studies about the aquisition of intonation where she compared Japanese, Chinese learners with native speakers. The highlight of the session definitely was her, singing a song from ¨My fair Lady¨ and ¨Locomotion¨ with intonation lyrics.

My second talk was about ¨Five steps how to prepare your students for the 21st Century¨ by Natassa Mannitsa. Sadly it got interrupted by the fire alarm and we had to ¨leave the building immediately¨. Although the building got evacuated I could take four exercises for my students with me: presentations (in front of parents), performances (theatre), parents meetings, pair work & role play;

After the evacuation I attended a session about ¨ Analyzing data on lesson plans¨. To be honest, I thought it would be about how lesson plans help you to improve your management in class (to give the students the biggest opportunity to learn). However, Jaqueline Fernandes only talked about the teachers trainee situation in Brazil and how bad the current school system is. I couldn’t take anything from it…

Last but not least, the TED Talk! I have to admit that I love TED Talks and that I think that they are a great source for lesson content. This talk by Daniel Barber just pushed me to be more confident about using TED Talks in my lessons. First he introduced why TED Talks are so popular: they are interesting, short, clear, accessible and global! He continued with the principles of listening comprehension and how to turn a TED Talk into an effective task. Even though the end could have been ¨smoother¨, the session confirmed my attitude towards TED Talks.

Off-topic:

Lukas and I found the pub he had been to last August. I could meet the extraordinary waitress Emma. It was a pleasure to meet her – and the food was delicious there!!

A place to rethink yourself as a teacher, person, student…

The week  in Glasgow is almost over and I have had the chance to see a beautiful city, to listen to amazing talks and to be proud of being the future generation of English language teachers. 

But first things first. Glasgow welcomed us with a rainy weather, which fortunately stopped the next day. However, the cold temperatures and strong winds showed us that this city is not the right one if you are a summer person. Nevertheless, we did not surrender and managed to explore the city, go sightseeing and even shopping, which ended in burning and exhausted legs but it was definitely worth it!

Most of the talks I went to were really informative and inspiring. Today I went to a talk on creativity in the classroom and how you can teach your pupils to think creatively. Contrary to common belief, this is not a question of whether your pupils are creative or not, it is rather connected to what kind of speech we use in class. For example, if we ask our pupils to describe a picture, they do not get the chance to be creative – they simply say what they see. If we, however, show them a picture of an unknown tool and ask them to think about five situations in which they might use such a tool, they would have to be creative in order to complete the task. Therefore, we can easily train our pupils to thinks creatively by asking the right questions. 

Another very useful talk I went to was dedicated to creating pronunciation board games. The great thing about board games is that everyone likes playing them – young learners, teenagers and even adults. And it’s really simple to turn a regular board game into a pronunciation board game. Those of you who have done the course “Advanced Pronunciation for Teachers” with our professor Ulla Fürstenberg know what I am talking about 🙂

If you want to know more about that Louise Guyett has a blog on this topic called: practicalpronunciation.org – check it out!

Finally, I have to admit that being a student at this conference is really fun. I also have to say that we have to thank our teachers, Ulla Fürstenberg, Elke Beder-Hubmann and Sarah Mercer, for this popularity. We are the only students at this conference and wherever we appear people seem to be going crazy with praise – and I am just thinking: “What did we do? We just came here to listen to experienced teachers and learn from them.” I am very thankful that we got the chance to participate in this huge event, where not only issues of ELT but also existing problems in the real world are being addressed. I have learnt that we (teachers) are all in this together, that we have similar problems and visions and that we can make a difference in our classrooms, but also in the real world outside the school! 

Here a photo from our sightseeing tour 🙂

I wonder…

Before I came to Glasgow, I wondered what the city would be like. I wondered whether the weather was going to be too cold. I wondered what kind of people I would meet. I wondered about a lot of things…

But I never thought of getting the chance to  listen to so many inspiring and intelligent teachers, who turn language teaching into a breathtaking journey that lasts for a lifetime. One of these teachers is J.J. Wilson who held the plenary talk yesterday. For me, his talk was the highlight of my stay in Glasgow. He reminded me why I decided to start the teacher training education a couple of years ago. 

The topic of his talk was social justice. You might ask yourself right now: “What on earth does this have to do with English language teaching?” – well, let me explain it to you. During this whole week, we have heard numerous times, that the most important part of language teaching are the pupils or students themselves. Creating strong relationships to them, which are based od trust, honesty and respect is fundamental to any kind of teaching and learning. If we do not want to engage with our pupils in the classroom, well, then no learning will take place and we will not fulfill our job. This means, that if we do show interest in them and connect emotionally with them, we will not only achieve better results in their learning, but we will also learn with them and share positive feelings and experiences. 

Once we have managed to do that, we can go one step further – we can adress problems that exist thrughout the world and try to find solutions for them together with our pupils. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that we have to solve the worldwide problem of water shortages in our English classes – no, but we can show our pupils that it does matter what we do in this world and that we can change it, step by step. We have to start in our own surroundings, our own lives – first, we have to change ourself, before we step out into the world and make it a better place. Given the fact that we, teacher, actually have the future in our hand, sitting in our classrooms, it would be a shame, if we did not use the opportunity to change the world together. If we start with changing the world from our classroom, one day our pupils will step out and change the world on their own. 

J.J. Wilson showed us in a very fascinating manner that this is not difficult. We do not have to look at rich Hollywood stars, who donate millions of dollars to charity organisations. We simply have to act regionally. Think about where waste is deposited in your town – are there maybe better ways to re-use the waste? Have you seen people being oppressed in your town because they look different, because they think differently or because they have an alternative lifestyle? Address those issues in your class and make your pupils aware of these problems – they might surprise you with their opinions and solutions!

Communication involves much more than simply talking to people in a certain language. It also includes living with them, sharing concerns and ideas and beyond everything interacting with each other and with our world. Therefore, I am convinced that addressing the problems of our generation should have a fixed place in language classes. 

Now I wonder how many teachers like J.J. Wilson there are in the world? I say, there can never be enough of them!

Brain is the new sexy…

This is the University of Glasgow! A marvellous Building or rather a complex of Buildings on the top of Glasgow. I wished our University would look like it

Look whom I have found there!!!!

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Unfortunately, I have to upgrade to premium, if I want to post a Video in here. That is what the System tells me…

I will post the Video of Jeronimo in our WhatsApp Group. Yes I called him Jeronimo :D.

Going around the City this afternoon, we were actually able to catch a bit sun along the way. Paying Attention to all there is to explore surely broadens one’s horizon by a factor of 100!

As we students are now highly regarded among the various English teachers around the world, I believe that nowadays, in the intellectual community, other traits such as the willingness to learn and having an eye for the detail are surely underrated.

I borrowed my title from Sherlock Holmes, who once said this in one of his brilliant episodes. (the BBC ones). I Thing that this is absolutely true for today !

Research has also shown that People, who are perceived as more intelligent (although they might not always be) are also regarded as more attractive and appealing. (I don’t think this belongs to the classic image of a computer nerd, though..) ^^

With this post, I want to raise the awareness that focusing on, for instance, Content of certain talks or Workshops, should not let us stray from the Beauty out there!

 

 

Ehhh…of worms and rotten parsnips

Cans of worms and rotten parnips: Critical pedagogy in ELT by Steve Brown

How should we teach tourism? When Eastern or Southern Europeans think of British tourists, naked, urinating and drunk British people may beon their minds. On more serious account, we do not present our students with the problem of sex tourism, either. At least, schoolbooks avoid these issues. Instead, we discuss how to pack a suitcase. This is because we do not want to open “a can full of worms”, i.e. we want to avoid potentially problematic topics. These can be categorized according to the “PARSNIP principle”.
p = politics

a = alcohol

r = religion

s = sex

n = narcotics

i = sms

p = porks

There are several reasons why we avoid these topics. We want to stay in control and run the lesson as we have planned it, with as few interruptions and distractions as possible. Also, we tend to see ourselves as language teachers. This implies that most English teachers do not feel responsible for the students’ political and critical thinking and content is regarded as a facilitator for language teaching, not the other way round. However, teaching is never as neutral as we think. Not deciding between the powerful and the powerless is an automatic decision in favor of the powerful. If we decide to leave out problemati but essential topics in teaching, we impose a kind of censorship upon our students and take away their chance to develop reflected opinions. 

But there are more problematic situations than just avoiding certain topics that can become relevant in the classroom. “Homosexuality is unnatural. I don’t like Chinese people because they eat dogs. I won’t cook, my wife will do that.” If students come up with statements like that, many language teachers ignore the problem. However, the classroom environment is a unique way to create a save space, in which these problematic issues can be discussed without negative consequenes, which is the basis for students’ self-reflection. If these mindsets are never challenged, students will think they are ‘normal’ and defend them on the bus, in a business meeting once they have finished schools or in other inappropriate contexts. It is our responsibility to open the disgusting can full of worms in the save environment, because we do not teach language in the first place, but people.