Emily Bryson ELT

What I learned at the NATECLA Scotland conference

I had the pleasure of attending NATECLA Scotland‘s conference on Saturday 3rd November. As usual with these events, I left brimming with ideas.   Here’s my (somewhat belated) rundown of the day!

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Amanda Avison – I say, you say

Amanda Avison was my first port of call and I don’t say this lightly when I say that her talk was revelatory.  I wish I’d attended her talk way back at the start of my teaching career, or at least during my Diploma.

I’ve always known that my west coast of Scotland accent just didn’t cut the mustard on the Received Pronunciation IPA chart.  Myself (and most of my colleagues) were the black sheep, avoiding /u:/ and /ÊŠ/ when they came up in the book (food and full are absolutely the same sound) but over-dramatising the long ‘a’ in /cÉ‘:/ (car) before drilling students to roll their /r/s!

Amanda’s talk was so refreshing because it focused on how my accent sounds, rather than how my accent is supposed to sound. Here’s some examples:

/u:/ and /ʊ/ are the same sound /ʉ/ (e.g. food and full)

/æ/ and /ɑː/ are also the same sound /a/ (e.g. tap and staff)

/ɪər/ as in beer or ear is more of an /i:r/ in my world.

So Amanda wins the medal for inclusive practices in pronunciation teaching!  I left having experienced one of those lightbulb moments, and with my own personal phonemic chart, just for my own wee accent.  If you get a chance to see her, you too could have your own.

Rosie Quin – ESOL Literacy – Creating Accessible Resources for Adult Learners

My dear colleague, Rosie, is always inspiring to me. Having taught ESOL Literacies for years, she knows her stuff.  ESOL Literacies teachers have even fewer options for off the shelf resources than ESOL teachers, so Rosie has embraced the language experience model of teaching.

The language experience approach allows learners to connect their experiences with speaking, listening, reading and writing.  Starting with an object or an image, the class create a short text using their own language skills.  The text is then exploited to allow as much practice of the words as possible. This could be scrambled word/letter activities, gap fills of words within a text or letters within a word, circling words with certain letters or sounds or using word shapes (see image below) to assist with spelling and letter formation.

word shapes

Rosie also spoke about the importance of phonics for literacy.  The Jolly Phonics approach is widely used to teach reading in schools.  And it works.  Rosie starts off the academic year teaching her students the basic sounds that accompany letters – and that sounds and the names of letters are different. She’s strict about training students to differentiate ‘sounds’ (finger to ear) and ‘letters’ (hand on head).

The first six sounds in Jolly Phonics are s, a, t, p, n, i and students are then taught various words with these letters (e.g tap, sit, at) before moving on to the more advanced sounds and blends (e.g. ck, e, h, r, m, d > man, pack).  For more information and a list of sound sequences, visit the Jolly Phonics site.

Kenji Lamb – ESOL and technologies

Last but not least was Kenji, a super-enthusiastic speaker who raved about the use of Lego and elastic bands for teaching syllables and word stress. He also renewed my faith in speech to text technology. For those of you that have seen the Burnistoun Voice Recognition Scottish Accent comedy sketch, you’ll know the pain that us Scots have to go through and I’m sure you can imagine how successful voice to text is for us!

But in fact, Kenji demonstrated, successfully, that https://dictation.io/speech and GoogleDocs (Ctrl+Shift+S to activate voice typing) both actually have pretty effective voice to text functionality.  Very handy when all students can use them for free on their phones to practise their pronunciation at home, or collaborate on group projects.

Even more exciting was when he showed us how to use the captions function in GoogleSlides!  In ‘present’ mode, you can turn captions on, which will display subtitles for every word you say (as long as you have a microphone, of course)!

Kenji recommended a whole host of websites to support students’ learning.  For those students needing extra writing practice, Kenji suggested www.quill.org and for karaoke loving students, www.lyricstraining.com.  For pronunciation, www.youglish.com searches YouTube videos for specific words so that students can hear a range of pronunciations.

The Ruth Hayman Trust

I was delighted to hear about the wonderful work of the Ruth Hayman Trust.  Set up by NATECLA in honour of their first secretary, Ruth Hayman, the trust is run entirely by volunteers.  They provide ‘educational grants to people who have come to settle in the UK and whose first language is not English’.  You can find more information and donate here. 

And finally….

Thank you NATECLA Scotland for such a great and inspiring day.  It’s a shame I had to choose between so many great talks.  Participants were buzzing about Glasgow ESOL forum, Steve Brown and Berenice Hunter, but perhaps my poor little brain would have exploded if I’d heard any more good ideas!

I should mention that I also spoke about my principles of teaching ESOL.  Watch this space, as I will blog about this in the future!

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