Every time I go to IATEFL, I leave with a head so full of ideas that I genuinely fear it may burst! I have so many ideas that they mostly fall by the wayside. Not this time! This time I have my trusty blog – and a list of five things I promise to do before the conference in Liverpool next year!
1. Allow students planning time before a speaking activity.
Jon Hird spoke about how giving students time to plan before a speaking task really bridges the divide between accuracy and fluency. He shared some research that showed that students who planned before a speaking task paused less during the interaction and were 11% more accurate than those that did not plan. My students will be getting more planning time in their speaking classes from now on! You can download Jon’s handout here.
2. Promote the BBC Learn English website with my Eritrean students.
I’m always looking for useful websites that students can use at home. I often find that it’s really easy to signpost lower level learners that speak Arabic, Chinese or Spanish to online learning platforms (e.g. Babbel). However, my Eritrean students often miss out. Not any more! It turns out that the BBC Learn English Website is also in Tigrinya! Happy days!
3. Be (more) mindful!
Rachael Roberts, as usual, left me bursting with ideas for the classroom. In this case, she also left me bursting with ideas for life! I do endeavor to be mindful. I really do, but sometimes I can’t turn off what Rachael calls the ‘lizard brain’. That’s all the negative thoughts ‘Why will anyone want to read my blog?’ and ‘That activity was rubbish.’ are common ones. Just being aware that everyone has a lizard that must be quietened or silenced so we can get on with the fun, happy thoughts is a step in the right direction. Buddhify and Headspace are apps that Rachael recommended in her talk.
She also recommended getting the class in the right mood for learning. Starting the class with a calming conversation or a fun puzzle; doing a quick breathing exercise or asking your students to close their eyes for a minute and listen to the sounds to relax them; fostering an atmosphere of positivity… and of course breaking up the lesson with a random fun video of a baby laughing! Everyone loves a laughing baby video!
4. Appreciate resources.
I teach at a well-resourced Further Education College. I am lucky that I can pretty much ask for any book (within reason) and it will magically appear on my desk a couple of weeks later (more or less). Dorothy Zemach‘s hard-hitting plenary (how can you mention IATEFL 2018 without mentioning that plenary) really hit home about the squeeze on all involved in ELT publishing. Teachers want more supplementary stuff, which squeezes publishing companies, who then squeeze authors. Everyone gets squeezed and nobody wins. And most specifically, one size does not fit all. Cleansing coursebooks of all taboo subjects (love, alcohol, tattoos, LGBT, etc) does not promote equality, diversity or inclusion – or indeed help an ESOL student settle effectively in the UK!
5. Think outside the box (apologies for the cliche)
Steve Brown is a world changer. Last year he spoke about how we have to embrace the PARSNIPs (taboo topics – Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Narcotics, -isms and Pork) in the ESOL classroom. I couldn’t agree more. These are important topics for my learners. Interacting with these topics helps understand the social intricacies of the country they live in.
This year, Steve once again pushed the boundaries and got everyone thinking. He questioned whether the activities we give our learners truly meet their needs and truly get them thinking critically about the world around them – and whether the environment in which we operate truly allows us to teach them what they need. You can watch the full video at the British Council website.
Were you at IATEFL Brighton? What five things do you plan to do before IATEFL 2019?
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