Tag Archives: IATEFL

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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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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“Yes, and…”: Improv theater techniques to build creativity and speaking skills

Here you can download the list of resources I frequently turn to when looking for improv activities for class. This is the list referred to in my talk “Yes and…”: Improv theater techniques to build creativity and speaking skills.

A few activities I often demonstrate in this talk:

No-language warmers:

“Beat out that rhythm” from Maley & Duff, 1985, p. 53

“Emotional mirror” from

Verbal warmers:

“Metronome” (used in my improv theater group, but I haven’t found where it comes from)

“Using Lines of Dialogue” from Bernardi, 1992, pp. 127-136

Ways of Improv:

“Segmenting” from Spolin, 1999, p. 22-23

“Fishbowl” adapted from Wilson, 2012, pp. 50-51

Click here to download the annotated resource list for “Yes and…”: Improv theater techniques to build creativity and speaking skills by Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

If you have any suggestions for the activities or just want to share how they went in your classroom, please do so! I’d love to hear from you!


Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Downloads


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The Big Picture: Teaching Grammar Holistically and Visually

Here you can download the explanations on how to do the activities I demonstrated during my talk titled “The Big Picture: Teaching Grammar Holistically and Visually.” The documents contain a little background info on each activity, the materials needed, step-by-step instructions, plus ways of adapting the activities to one-on-one or group lessons.

Click here to download activity procedures for “The Big Picture – Teaching Grammar Holistically and Visually” by Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

So far, I’ve given this talk at:

TESOL France Grenoble, Oct. 12, 2013

IATEFL Poland, Lodz, Sept. 28-30, 2013

If you have any suggestions about the activities or just want to tell us about how they went in your classroom, please do so! I’d love to hear from you.

Want more? Click here for 7 reasons to use Cuisenaire rods in the Language Classroom


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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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IATEFL Liverpool: Barry Tomalin’s “Make Meetings Work”

If you work with executive managers who do a lot of meetings through conference calls, this was the talk to attend; not only was it lively, it was spot on in terms of how to help our business learners participate in meetings more effectively.

Barry invited us to brainstorm some problems our business learners have in conf calls. One particularly interesting cultural issue came up in the discussion—how to do small talk before a virtual meeting, how long should it last, and how to stop it. Rapport building is thus a problem for conf call meetings, as well as “native speaker insensitivity” or rather “unawareness” as Barry preferred. By this, we meant native speakers making little or no effort to make their language more understandable and also not taking cultural issues into consideration. Imagine Canadian workers trying to socialize about last weekend’s hockey match with a group of south Indian workers and you see what he meant.

Barry pointed out that of course, there are issues of confidence, hierarchy, and accent that get in the way of communication. In terms of comprehension, learners can often feel they lose 30-50% of the conversation and feel too intimidated to speak as much as they should or would like to. We as language trainers can help them with these problems.

Barry suggested building up systematic organization, showing learners how not to lose control, and how to intervene or interrupt. These problems are particularly present in the French context, but are in no way limited to French business people .

Barry’s plan for building confidence in conf calls includes:

A framework for conf calls and meetings

  • Agree who will take the minutes
  • Go through each item
  • Summarize at the end
  • Main conclusions
  • AOB (this is a problem because foreign participants don’t know what acronyms mean or even what we mean by “business” in this context)
  • Date of next meeting

 Stock phrases to help learners manage turns

  • Introductions: Have them say their name and what they do so people can start to get used to the accent.
  • Thanks: Thank you all for connecting.
  • Welcome: I’d like to welcome everybody here today
  • Apologies: …won’t be here because…
  • Minutes of the last meeting: “Did everyone get the minutes from the last meeting?

Another important cultural issue came up in the discussion. Americans tend to dominate meetings and many non-native speakers feel they can’t get a word in! But, by using the techniques above, learners can better keep control when with dealing with Americans. Not only will this lead to more balanced exchanges, but more confidence and higher self-esteem.

Remember, a trainee may have difficulties in L2 but in L1 they are used to making decisions, wielding power, and being the leader of the pack. Having to bow to a linguistically superior other can feel humiliating. Barry’s strategies for establishing and keeping control will help our business trainees match their L1 and L2 selves.

Barry suggested trainees take 4 steps to intervening in a meeting

  1. Get the agenda in advance to identify points of interest
  2. Tell the convenor in advance that they want to contribute on a certain point
  3. Make sure the convenor can see/identify you in the conf call
  4. Make your point firmly. Keep it clear, light, tight, polite. If they can express one idea per sentence in short sentences, they’ll be much more effective. Trainees must also make sure they’re not too serious, especially in meetings with Brits and Americans. Of course, politeness is something to be aware of as well.

This led to something that we should remind learners of when working on conf call etiquette: How to be concise. This means being:

  • Short: One idea per sentence, no sentences over 25 words
  • Sharp: To the point, no waffling
  • Sweet: Say it nicely and say it politely

As teachers, we can elicit or teach one stock phrase per stage of the meeting then practice the meeting and the phrases. This way the participants have a library of simple stock phrases for each stage. They’ll come away with a framework and phrases for each part.

Barry reported that his learners take more than just English away from these lessons. Citing feedback from his learners, he mentioned increased confidence, savings of time, and ‘we should use this structure in our own country’-type remarks. You’re then teaching them not only language but meeting management techniques. This is a powerful motivator indeed.

To put this all together into a lesson, Barry suggested having trainees select the content of a meeting, decide on a framework then run the meeting while the trainer takes notes on the language to look at after the activity.

Again learner feedback suggested that this tactic gave them more confidence and a feeling of being much more effective in meetings. Learners came away feeling more confident and more effective. Some even reported that these were “effective tips I can use in French as well.”

To finish, we came back to the difficulty of building rapport in meetings where you can’t see the other participants. One must also be aware of the role of hierarchy in certain cultures. For example, light questions would be met with silence at the beginning of a conf call to India or China. It would be a good idea to find out who is the leader, address questions to the leader, and the leader designates someone on his team to answer. This notion would seem completely foreign to Western business culture.

An interesting suggestion was to save 10 minutes for participants to ask any questions they want—about family, weather, sports, whatever once the meeting is over. This does take some time to establish as a habit. At first, the meetings may just end very quickly, but after a few sessions, this often becomes a highly anticipated part of the meetings.

Also, we should not underestimate the importance of seeing participants in meetings. This means that all kickoff meetings should be done through video conferencing. We should suggest this to our clients. If a company does not have the means to do so, suggest that the participants exchange photos of each other. Simply being able to see the person you’re talking to, even in a photo, greatly changes the amount of rapport.

To finish, Barry also suggested that we can help deal with native speaker unawareness. In a very practical activity, he has native speakers read their business card, pausing after key information. This helps them to slow down and remember that their listeners may need that extra bit of processing time. If you can’t understand a person’s name, generally you avoid talking to them. So to build rapport, it pays to pronounce your name clearly, pausing afterwards.

You can follow Barry Tomalin at where you can also download the presentation slides. His book Key Business Skills is available from Collins. 


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IATEFL Liverpool: Colin MacKenzie’s 59 Seconds to Professional and Personal Development

I ducked into Colin’s session after another I wanted to attend was already filled to capacity. A lucky chance, because this was an inspiring talk about how to effectively develop in small ways, part of IATEFL’s Teacher Development Special Interest Group (TDSIG) Day. Plus, Colin has a really fun and refreshing presentation style—he’s one to watch for in future conferences!

First, he invited us to think of a professional problem we had. I chose irregular attendance in in-company groups.  Then we thought about professional goals. I want to diversify more in my career—blending writing, teaching, speaking at conferences, and teacher training.

Colin also asked for two volunteers before he really got into the thick of the talk: one to give him only positive feedback and one to give him only negative feedback after the talk. Why not do a bit of one’s own professional development while helping others develop? I liked this little technique and found it fitting for this talk.

Colin based his talk on a book by Prof. Richard Wiseman called  59 seconds: think a little, change a lot. Technically it’s a self-help book, but Colin said that it did help him in his teaching.

He asked us to  note three things to be grateful for in our professional life. I chose:

  1. Knowing great colleagues around the world
  2. Having had the courage to go freelance
  3. Having access to opportunities for professional development

Working in a group with Duncan Foord and Anthony Gaughan, we all came up with similar ideas. Having the freedom to do what we want in our classrooms was also something to be really grateful for.

Colin pointed out that we develop when we’re happy. Happiness and motivation are keys for developing as teachers. We also need the necessary tools and finally, creativity to develop. We can get ideas at conferences and from other teachers, but when we make these ideas our own, that’s when we develop.

In the book 59 seconds, the author recommends spending some time (ideally 59 seconds, but Colin admitted that it often really takes longer) keeping a “Perfect Diary.” You write about something positive in your life, for example, one theme for each day of the week. Here’s a suggestion for a working week Perfect Diary:

  • Monday: Thanksgiving—things you are thankful for
  • Tuesday: Terrific times—things that are going well in your present life
  • Wednesday: Future fantastic—something in the future that you are optimistic about
  • Thursday: Dear…–a letter to someone who means a lot to you or that you respect. You don’t actually send the letter though.
  • Friday: 3 things—these are things that went well over the past week

In studies done on people who actually followed this advice, there was a real difference in levels of happiness, so why not try it out and come back to tell us if it helped you?

Another way to cultivate happiness is by simply smiling. Colin challenged us to all smile for 30 seconds. It certainly got us giggling! It may sound a bit quirky, but Colin said he actually creates little reminders to smile, like smiling when he stops at a traffic light. However, he recommended not overly grinning on public transport—it tends to scare people!

Colin cautioned us about thinking too positively about the future, because studies show that imagining a too-fantastic future actually led to unhappiness. Don’t create an unrealistic future, for risk of never reaching your goals. Think of it as carefully dosed future fantasy.

Showing a photo of George Orwell, Colin brought up the notion of doublethink goals in which we define a goal, but also the benefits and barriers. These are supposed to be in one word, but it’s ok to add a few!

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Goal: do more  writing in ELT
  • Biggest benefit: professional development
  • Barrier: Lack of time or novel ideas
  • 2nd benefit: become more known as a contributor to our field
  • 2nd barrier: finding publication outlets
  • Elaboration: this was a small-group discussion of the above points

Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol provided the perfect metaphor. He was most affected by the ghost of Christmas future—it sparked him to change. The future he saw and the way he would be remembered horrified him.  So Colin challenged us to do a very interesting, perhaps somewhat shocking, exercise:

Write your own eulogy.

Imagine you’ve died. What would you like a friend to say about you at your funeral? Avoid modesty, but be realistic. Include personality, achievements, personal strengths, professional success, etc.

The exercise felt a bit funny, but once you start, you begin to realize what’s important to you and where you want to go. It’s like you’re plotting the destination for the journey of your life. After that, it’s up to you to find the path to get there.

59 seconds isn’t really enough to do this exercise (it is your own eulogy, after all!) but it is an interesting one worth trying out.           

Colin also reminded us that the loudest part of our inner self is not always the most creative part—think silent, creative type.  We thought of a problem then kept our mind busy with a word search projected on the screen. Meanwhile, the silent part of our inner selves subconsciously mulled over the problem.


Think of a problem you’re trying to solve – do a word search or other mind-occupying idea – jot ideas to solve our problem.

In the final couple of exercises, Colin invited half of the group to think of typical behavior and characteristics of an engineer. The other half of the group had to imagine the behavior and characteristics of a punk.  Then in a standard test of creativity, we had to think of as many uses as possible for a hefty 200-page tome–the IATEFL conference program.

By imagining a creative, non-conformist type of person like an artist, a punk, etc. just before doing a creative-thinking activity, you will think more creatively. Don’t think about the perfect creative person—no Leonardo da Vinci! That’s setting the bar a bit too high, but you get the idea. 

Colin admitted that while these activities may not have allowed him to measure their effectiveness in his own life, they have helped him to feel more positive and creative.

I may just try out the Perfect Diary this week and then try out some of the creative thinking techniques while mulling over proposals to submit to future conferences.

And which ones will you experiment with? Let us know what you try and if/how they affect your creativity!


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IATEFL Liverpool: Pete Sharma and Louis Roger’s Dealing with Differentiation

Pete related to the audience immediately by presenting a typical business English class: several learners within a company, several different needs, varying levels of attendance, motivation, and effort. Meet Ursula, Leandro, Dieter, and Daphne.

We looked at a few scenarios, or case studies, typical of the business English classroom and how they would suit (or not) our four learners. Louis reminded us that when working with case studies, it’s important to choose situations that learners can relate to, situations that become meaningful to the learners.  These could be sharing office space, work-life balance issues, planning meetings, etc. as long as they are situations that can appeal to your learners. Often though the case studies found in business English training materials may only appeal to one learner in the group. If the others can’t relate to the scenario, they’ll likely be less motivated.

The speakers then asked us to reflect on how we engage our business learners to read. In reality, we don’t always do as much extensive reading as we could in the business classroom, perhaps for time reasons, perhaps for learners’ desire to do as much speaking as possible.

They suggested business mazes for reading in business contexts. A business maze is an interactive paproach to reading and Business Mazes by Jone Farthing and Hart-Davis (1981) is one way to do this. Learners read a short passage, and then must make a decision to know what part of the book to go to next. Basically they can’t continue until they’ve read and made a decision.

Doing this in a more modern form, a digital business maze, which is available from Richmond ELT. These activities allow learners to recycle language, practice functions, and and enagage extended reading. Much research has suggested that extended reading is crucial for building one’s vocabulary.

To support this claim, Louis cited several studies that mentioned focal and perifpheral attention, deliberate and incidental vocabulary learning opportunities, the notion that explicit focus on learning vocabulary doesn’t impact learners’ retention, and the role of reading in second language aquisition. 

Virtual Learning Environment

These are web-based, password protected virtual spaces that host course materials and allow asynchronous and synchronous interactions. You can often customize them and make them look like the product that you are offering. VLEs also allow you to get into deeper conversations with your students (or encourage these among students), perhaps better so than in the classroom. Students can read the question, think about it, maybe even do some research and then respond. This stimulates more critical thinking than simply asking a question and expecting a student to respond immediately.

Teachers can deliver course elements appropriately and better handle differentiation. Students can study at their own pace, wherever they like, and personalize their study.

Going back to our hypothetical group of learners, we saw that only one person needed English for emails. The VLE gives a platform outside your email inbox where email communication can be had. In business English, this means keeping in contact with learners who may not make it to every class or who schedule one class every month.

VLEs also give students the opportunity to work on listening skills at their own pace. Rather than listening to an extract twice, it may be more effective to let listeners hear fast speech with the possibility of pausing it to have only short extracts. 

They offer interesting components in a blended approach in which we can monitor who has done what and when. VLEs and blended learning can offer the best of both worlds–face-to-face and online learning. 

However, we have to be careful of avoiding the eclectic mish-mash of multimedia mayhem. Pete pointed out that he’s rarely seen good blended courses. It’s often a bit of this, a bit of that, an app here, and app there. 

The teacher also has to be sure to have a positive attitude to the blended aspect of the course. Enthusiasm will carry over to the students. At the same time, it is important to integrate the VLE into the course so that learners (and teachers) can concretely see how the face-to-face element supports the online element and vice versa.

To conclude, Pete advised us as teachers to take a blended or online course to find out what learning online is all about. For example, a school could create an online training day where the teachers are trained how to use a platform via a platform. 

You can read the blog  of Pete Sharma Associates at


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

This was Mike’s second presenation at this year’s IATEFL, after his early-morning “How to” session on becoming a successful freelancer.

He started by challenging us to get our learners to think about what they can do outside the lessons to become better business English communicators. Business learners tend to be very busy people, which often means that English lessons may not necessarily be their priority. To manage this conundrum, we can give them ways to optimize what little time they have.

We need to consider two questions:

  • What are the key functions learners need?
  • How can business learners autonomously improve their skills while on the move?

In Business English, we often get what Mike calls “the big six”–presentations, negotiations, phone calls, meetings, small talk, and e-mails. Most learners need all or some of these in their English training course, but that doesn’t tell us enough. Charles Rei blogs about communicative needs analyses (among other business English-related topics) at Mike mentioned his blog in discussing why just asking learners what they want to cover in English training isn’t enough. We often get answers like “I want to improve my grammar” or “I need to give presentations.” Sound familiar?

We need to focus on key functions rather than the medium of communication–how to present data, give updates, express doubt and concern, respond to requests, network, and so on. We also need to know in what contexts, on what topics, and with whom.

Once we know why they’re taking lessons, we can find out what “communicative events” they’re likely to deal with. Then we can also start to find solutions to help them improve these skills in the little bits of time they have between their professional duties.

Mike suggested that we can flip our classes, not in the sense of recording all our lessons for them (because teachers are busy people too!), but by giving them other ways of engaging in independent learning. This way, we can optimize the time spent in the face-to-face lesson.

Where to start

WIth all that’s out there, teachers and learners may feel lost. So where do we start? We need to consider:

  • relevance to learners
  • return on investment
  • learner motivation
  • their dead time
  • when and how they’re on the move

By turning language learning into a hobby, learners will make time to do it because they like to do it. “Homework” can be a challenge, but by giving them something that aligns with their needs, they’re more likely to do it. This means that our proposed “homework” needs to take into consideration the criteria above.

Building on the success of Macmillan’s Global series of coursebooks (which I highly recommend, and I’m a Dogme person!), Mike showed us how the new Global business class eWorkbook offers busy learners the possibility to continue learning on the go.

The eWorkbook comes in CD-ROM format and thus works on a computer, but the exercises can also be printed. The kicker is that it is also accessible on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

The “work globally” unit focus on functions such as expressing doubt and changing the subject. There is also vocabulary focus modules as well as business listening, reading, and writing modules. Rather than focusing on grammar, it is structured into functional chapters and activities.

For learners traveling in places where there is ot a dependable connection, the activities can be printed out and packed in the suitcase. These exercises look much like standard worksheets. There are also reading and writing files that can be printed and done on the plane or train, for example.

The “On the Move” section offers tutorial videos on how to perform typical business functions with example dialogues, opportunities to practice, and tips. These can be viewed on tablets and devices, perfect for when learners are on the move.

In sum, programs like the Global Business Class eWorkbook can help us as business trainers respond to the realities of our business learners. We need to give them content and activities that allow them to learn things through English and at the same time learn English.

Mike left us with a key message–get our trainees learning autonomously outside of class to make the time we spend in class as effective as possible.

You can connect with Mike on twitter: @irishmikeh


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IATEFL Liverpool: Nicky Hockly’s Mobile Literacy & ELT

Digital natives. mLearning. The connected classroom. These seem to be some of the hot buzzwords at this year’s IATEFL conference. I was thrilled to be able to attend a talk by Nicky Hockly, one of the founder’s of The Consultants-e, an online training and consultancy company. She started by telling us all sorts of information she found about Liverpool on the Uncyclopedia, a site for glaringly false information that is the exact antithesis to Wikipedia.

We started with a letter-by-letter dictation on our mobile phones: Whatdoyouuseyourmobilephonefor? Wheredoyouuseit? This could be a really fun way of practicing the alphabet as well as spelling, then getting a short discussion going with the answers to the questions. It can also help students build prediction skills. So, a little fun to get our brains going.

Nicky shared an infographic revealing that most people used phones for texting, taking photos, and internet browsing. Funnily, phoning didn’t even make the list! Most people also use the phone lying in bed, in the bathroom, in meetings or class, and while playing golf! 

She then reminded us that mobile literacy means using mobile tech to communicate through the web. She added a quote by David Perry: “Teaching mobile literacy seems to me as crucial as teaching basic literacy;” Something to think about and its implications for our own practice. 

We then tried another hands-on activity to get to know our neighbors and challenge us: open your photo album and find pictures of all of the following:

  • a pet
  • a grandparent, child, or parent
  • a celebration
  • a holiday photo
  • a photo taken in nature
  • a photo of you doing sport

This is a classic speaking activity, but one that can be modified in lots of different ways to suit your context.Think about different variations on this theme that could work with your students.

The SAMR model

When it comes to mobile technology, we have different levels of task type:

  • Substitution: doing an activity with tech that could just as easily be done without
  • Augmentation: doing a standard activity but to which the tech element adds something
  • Modification: tech allows for significant task redesign
  • Redefinition: tech allows us to create new tasks that previously weren’t possible

QR codes

Nicky then flashed a QR code on a slide and invited us to flash it, get the instructions it then provided, and follow them. This was a really fun activity in fact, one that could be replicated in the classroom provided enough students have smartphones and have been told to download a QR code reader (Nicky recommends iNigma because it is incredibly efficient.)

You can easily create QR codes with Kaywa, which is available on the web. The QR code then leads to a URL, a bit of text, a phone number, or an SMS. For teachers, the link and text will probably be the most interesting options.

Nicky and audience members suggested using QR codes to do treasure hunts with clues in the form of QR codes pasted on the walls. She cautioned about over-using them though, which is sound advice for any tool or technique that we use in the classroom.

Augmented reality & geo-tagging

Augmenting reality means adding extra information to what’s available in the real world. She showed an example of taking a photo of the Sydney Opera House, which the phone recognizes and flashes information about the monument on the phone’s screen. This is great for visiting new cities.

She recommended Wikitude, which links to Wikipedia.

She also recommended Woices, which is a smartphone app. It figures out where you are through geotagging and it gives you a series of voice recordings with information about places in your surroundings. 

Students and teachers can create their own recordings about a place. You simply click, record, save and pin it to a map on the phone. You don’t have to be near the place that you are recording about. You can also add tags to your recording to help people know the subject of your recording. 

This takes the classic voice recording activity and puts it on this open-source platform. You can also upload the text that goes with the recording if you so desire. This can greatly motivate students to get it right because the recording is not simply going to sit on a hard drive. 

Q&A challenges

Several audience members put forth their ideas on challenges we could meet when trying to integrate mLearning. 

  • Classroom management:

Students being distracted by other apps, such as Facebook. WIll they do what they’re supposed to do or will they just start surfing? This is a question of classroom managment. We must clearly structure the task and make sure the task is interesting enough to motivate them.

We must also build up interest in the subject. Taking the example of the Sydney Opera House, we wouldn’t just go in and say “OK, go to Woices and record something about the Opera House.” That’s rather boring and difficult to do. We would build up to the “project” of the lesson–the recording–just like we would build up to any other project. First introduce the subject, have students to a bit of research and learning, then at the end, use the technology as a tool for the lesson, not as the aim of the lesson.

  • Platform compatibility:

Sme applications may be only iOS, only Android, or only computer-based. You’ll need to make sure that the apps you want to use are compatible with whatever devices your students may have.

  • Connectivity:

Make sure that the school you’re working in has the wifi connection and the power to allow many students to connect simultaneously.

All in all, this talk was an excellent blend of practical information, a bit of rationale behind technology use, user-friendly demonstrations, and exchanges between Nicky and with the other audience members. Clearly, Nicky and the Consultants-e are the people to go to if you’re looking to develop your own digital literacy.

You can follow them on twitter: @TheConsultantsE or visit their website



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