Tag Archives: conference commentary

11 learning tips from 11 terrific teachers at the 2014 IATEFL Hungary conference

Last week I had the honor of attending and presenting at the 24th annual IATEFL Hungary conference in Veszprém. One of the many excellent talks I attended was Mark Andrews’ “The Danube, the Bridges of Budapest, and Making the Familiar Strange.” Mark made some great points about getting students out of the classroom and into the real world to cultivate their curiosity and develop their English. In other words, to create bridges between the world around them and their own inner growth.

With this idea of building bridges in mind, some of my kind colleague-friends offered to share their own advice for learning English with my trainees in the video below.

Although my trainees all live in France and mainly only see me for their English training, I thought this would be a neat opportunity to create a virtual bridge between some wonderful teachers from different countries and my trainees in France.

Feel free to share these tips with your own students and to continue building bridges. And why not share the link back to this blog with your own colleagues, wherever they may be.

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IATEFL 2014: Linguistic landscapes, lexical sets, and recording students

The next series of sketchnotes from the 2014 IATEFL conference in Harrogate is in fact a set of 3 different talks: “Linguistic landscapes” by Stephen Greene, “Lexical sets, texts, and vocabulary choice” by Andrew Walkley, and “Recording students to raise awareness of pronunciation strengths and weaknesses” by Lesley Curnick. All of the talks provided practical ideas: ways to get students noticing and questioning language around them in the real world, ways to help them manage and acquire vocabulary in texts, and techniques to help learners become aware of their own issues in pronunciation.

Linguistic landscapes by Stephen Greene


Lexical sets, texts, and vocabulary choice by Andrew Walkley



Recording students to raise awareness of pronunciation strengths and weaknesses by Lesley Curnick


If you’re interested in materials writing, you may find the notes from the IATEFL Materials Writing SIG pre-conference event useful:

And if you want to try your hand at sketchnoting (and who doesn’t??), the post “For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…” may help you get started! Have fun!


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IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Laurie Harrison’s “Writers in the digital age”

This is the third and final set of notes from the MaWSIG PCE event at IATEFL 2014. Laurie Harrison, in his talk “Writers in the digital age”,  shared lots of practical tips and things to keep in mind when being (or becoming) a writer in the digital age. The three main aspects he focused on were digital trends that writers need to be aware of, the skills sets that we as digital writers need to develop, and the sticky question of fees vs. royalties. Laurie gave us a talk chock full of practical information and insights–have a look for yourself!



And if you’re interested in some of the other talks at the MaWSIG PCE 2014, you may also enjoy:

If you want to try out sketchnoting for yourself (and yes, you can draw!), you may want to check out “For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…” It got a few tips and resources on how you too can start creating your own sketchnotes, if you want 😉



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IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Jeremy Day’s “Experiments in self-publishing”

Here’s the second in the series of IATEFL 2014 sketchnotes. This set comes from Jeremy Day’s high informative talk on self-publishing. I especially like the idea of creating your own materials that can be sold directly to the students 😉

Again, do let me know if some text explanations are desired!



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IATEFL Harrogate and MaWSIG PCE: Katherine Bilsborough’s “Becoming a digital author”

This year, I decided to abandon my usual BESIG crowd and sit in on the MaWSIG PCE (that’s the Materials Writing Pre-conference event for those of you who don’t speak TEFLese). The first talk of the day was by Katherine Bilsborough, who took us on a path to becoming a digital writer, with lots of concrete tips, resources, and insights as to what it means to be a digital author.

Here are my sketchnotes from the talk. I’ll leave you to look at them then connect and process the ideas on your own, rather than me describing the notes. However, I’ll be posting all of my notes from IATEFL 2014 as sketchnotes, so if you feel you’d also prefer a bit of text, do let me know. And if you see any mistakes, also please let me know! This is sort of an experiment in conference note-taking and sharing, so do let me know what you think!

MaWSIG PCD - p. 1 K Bilsborough MaWSIG PCE - p. 2 K BilsboroughMaWSIG PCE - p. 3 K Bilsborough MaWSIG PCE - p. 4 K Bilsborough

And if you’re curious to learn more about sketchnoting and how you can get started, read this post: “For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…”


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For those of you wondering about sketchnotes at IATEFL 2014…

During the 2014 IATEFL conference last week, a few people noticed me doodling away in a notebook (with real pen and paper!) during talks. Several people were even so kind as to ask to take photos of my notes, compliment them, and share them with our friends on Facebook. I’ll be sharing my notes on this blog as I finish coloring them (yes, like a 5-year old!), but since so many people seemed interested in the process of visual note-taking, here are a few resources and tips if you too want to start doodling rather than typing or writing your notes. It’s done as a sort of FAQs, based on questions I got during the conference.

What are sketchnotes?

Basically a visual form of note-taking that combines drawings, lettering styles, colors, icons, dividers, arrows, and whatever else you want to put into them to make your notes pretty and relevant to the content you want to capture.

Do you have to be a good artist to sketchnote?

Nope. I’m certainly not, unless you count stick figures, cubes, and the cat I learned to draw when I was 8 (and have been drawing that way ever since). That’s not modesty, it’s honesty. When I did do lots of artsy stuff in high school, I did collages. Why? Because you don’t have to draw, you just have to cut and paste. You don’t have to be an artist to create sketchnotes. In fact, the fact that the drawings are just sketches adds a certain graphic appeal. The whole minimalist design thing seems pretty trendy at the moment, so maybe that’s why. But you certainly don’t need to be an artist or even a good drawer to do sketchnotes! Just start doodling and keep at it!

How long does it take to learn how to sketchnote?

That’s like asking “How long does it take to learn English?” The answer depends on what proficiency level you’re aiming for. Before the IATEFL conference, I had done sketchnotes for 2 talks and 3 webinars. Not exactly years of experience then. Which means that it doesn’t take tons of training. You just have to start and keep at it. Of course, the notes you create will probably become more fluid, better organized, and more concentrated in key info as you get more experience, but there’s not better way to get experience than to just practice, practice, practice! (Hint: try sketchnoting the videos of all those IATEFL talks you missed but that are now available online. And there’s no stress of someone watching you create your notes!)

How do you draw and write and listen at the same time?

This does take a bit of practice, and I’m certainly still working on it! In my notebook there are several spots that are just blank and that will be filled after I get the speaker’s slides, read other people’s blog posts about the talk, etc. Presentations often contain some spots of intense info and some spots of down time (or “talk to your neighbor” time). You can use these to complete your notes, add little embellishes, or sketch a quick figure that can be fleshed out in more detail later. This has the added advantage of encouraging you to go back to your notes after the talk because you really want to fill them in, so you make that extra bit of effort. Again, storing things in your short-term memory while writing, drawing, and listening is a skill that improves with practice, but we’re all teachers, so don’t we enjoy a bit of mental work?

Why bother?

Sketchnotes are just prettier than scrawls of text that never get looked at again! But on a deeper level, there seem to be some cognitive benefits:

  • Trying to find images to illustrate the message helps you connect with and process the words.
  • Non-linear note-taking means you can arrange concepts on the page in a way that makes sense to you. You can also easily draw connectors to show relationships between similar or contrasting ideas.
  • You may be more artsy-fartsy than you think. Most people stop drawing because they think they’re not “good at it”. You don’t have to be good at drawing to sketchnote, but it does help to master a few basic shapes and ways of combining them to make simple images.
  • People (especially yourself) will want to read and re-read your notes. This means you review them more often and the stuff sticks better than if it just rotted away in a notebook (or computer file) somewhere.
  • The mind-body connection, or embodied cognition comes into play, since you are physically creating representations of the ideas you are processing. Scott Thornbury wrote a great article on this, published in the TESOL France Teaching Times in 2013.

How can I learn more about sketchnotes and how to do them?

There are lots of resources out there!

The first resource I’d recommend is the book The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde. There’s a Kindle version, but I personally prefer the paper version. It’s just nice flipping through the pages!

Sketchnoting has also carved out some cyberspace for itself. Here are a few resources you’ll likely find useful:

Not sure what’s with all violent metaphors, but it makes me think of this endless Soviet-style army marching forth wielding a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other!

Hope that answers some of the questions that you may have had about sketchnoting as a way to record your conference experience! If not, feel free to add other questions in the comments below! And keep your eyes out for the posts of the sketchnotes that I made–they’ll be posted here as I finish them!



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2013 IATEFL conference in Liverpool: Blog post round-up

To make it easy to find all of the posts from the 2013 IATEFL conference in Liverpool, here’s the linked list of posts published on this blog :

Steven Bukin’s The Flipped Classroom – From Theory to Practice

Nicky Hockly’s Mobile Literacy & ELT 

Mike Hogan’s Becoming More Successful Workplace Communicators While on the Move

Cecilia Lemos’ Reflections from a Recovering Recaster

Colin MacKenzie’s 59 Seconds to Professional and Personal Development

Pete Sharma and Louis Roger’s Dealing with Differentiation 

Barry Tomalin’s “Make Meetings Work”

Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley’s “From Preparation to Preparedness”

Catherine Walter’s How to Give a Presentation at an International Conference

Lindsay Warwick’s Flipping the Classroom and Student Attitudes

See you next year, for the 2014 IATEFL conference in Harrogate!


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IATEFL Liverpool: Cecilia Lemos’ Reflections from a recovering recaster

Cecilia–who came all the way from Recife, Brazil to help us other recasters–enticed us to sit up front by placing little Brazilian sweets on the front-row chairs–an idea she borrowed from a conference in Turkey! What a sweet way to start! Now the nitty-gritty…

This talk was packed, as we all know we are guilty of recasting and we all know there’s a better way to correct. Ceci began by asking herself “How did I become a recaster?” and remarked that her teacher training had taught that blatantly correcting students in the communicative approach  was almost a deadly sin of ELT. It would cut communication, bring up affective filters, and frighten them into shyness. Recasting was much better!

She admitted that recasting had become an automatism—she was even doing it with friends and family! She has since become a recovering recaster and wanted to share some oral correction techniques from an experiment in correction she did with her class.

Before setting up the experiment, she began to question the effectiveness of recasting when she herself became a student. In the role of student, she realized that she didn’t always catch the recasted correction her teacher was providing. And Ceci’s a teacher herself! She figured probably less than 5 percent of her English language learners picked up on recasted corrections.

That’s when the shift set in.

She began openly correcting students in class and reassured us that she hasn’t gone to ELT hell!

However, recovering from recasting is a process. It is not automatic. Her two biggest challenges were to first stop recasting and then to revolutionize her oral correction techniques. Participants volunteered their ideas for non-recasting correction:

  • Using gestures
  • Asking students to correct each other
  • Pointing out which rule that has been broken
  • Asking for clarification
  • Echoing
  • Eliciting a correction

Ceci shared a common feeling that many teachers have about their practice: we feel like we need some validation of what we do, even when we see that it works. We need the research to support the practice. Cecilia went looking for this and set up an experiment.

Recovering from recasting: the experiment

Cecilia chose to experiment with 2 groups of A2-level adult learners because it can be more challenging to do new things with adults. One group got recasted corrections, the other group got other, more direct corrections.

She pointed out that she was careful to get permission from management to try this out, backing up her proposition with research and justifications.

When she asked one group if they had even noticed recasting in previous lessons, none of them had. They simply thought the teacher was acknowledging what the students were saying.  She then explained that she was going to stop recasting and try different techniques.

At the end of the experiment, the group that had received non-recast corrections actually performed better on evaluations. Food for thought…

Ceci was happy to say that she has since stopped recasting with all her groups. When teachers came to observe her classes, she reported that they felt like they had really learned a lot from seeing other styles of correction. Students also expressed their appreciation because Ceci helped them to clearly identify and correct their mistakes.

Maybe we have taken recasting to the extreme, especially in the communicative approach and in wanting to provide a more humanistic approach to language teaching. We’ve sometimes been told that students are not supposed to feel the effort of learning, they’re just supposed to learn. But are we doing them a disservice by “protecting” them?

Correction doesn’t have to hurt and it doesn’t have to be embarrassing. Ceci quoted a student who said “I feel like I’m learning because I know what I should do and what I shouldn’t do.” Open correction makes them feel like they are progressing, that they are getting better and that they can really see how they are getting better.

 Going back to the idea of feeling justified in our teaching practice, she showed a video of a colleague who observed Ceci not recasting and how she felt so much better about her own practice. You can find the video of Ceci’s entire talk on the IATEFL Liverpool online website

She warned us that avoiding recasting doesn’t mean constantly correcting. She used a good metaphor—you go to the doctor for him to tell you what’s wrong. You don’t want your doctor to elicit a diagnosis from you. You want their expertise. Our students want our expertise as teachers and we shouldn’t hold it from them. 

If & how:

Ceci gave us a quick test for us to see if we had recovered from recasting:

Scenario: The beginning of class with A2 learners and you ask how their weekend was. One student says “I going to the beach. It was very good.” What would you do?

Many teachers wouldn’t do anything because it’s a warmer. One teacher suggested to make a quick note of the mistake and come back to it later in class if appropriate. Another idea was to do delayed correction at the end of the lesson and also go through recurrent mistakes made throughout the lesson. And a few teachers still said they’d recast it J

This is a big source of controversy though as many teachers prefer more immediate correction for oral errors. Ceci ended by reminding us that there are many different correction techniques available to teachers and it is important to know our students what works with them so as to help them correct their errors effectively.

So what would you do? To correct or not to correct in ice breakers, that is the question!


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