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Category Archives: ELT Conferences

E-merging Forum-3 in Moscow: reflections

I love ELT conferences! For many reasons, in fact. One of them is that all ELT events are so different, and you never know what exactly to expect from them: everything goes as a surprise.

EMF3

However, this idea had never occurred to me before E-merging Forum-3 (EMF-3) this year.

Partly, due to the resounding success of the E-merging Forum-2 last year, many attendees were rather disappointed with this year’s forum. Some delegates were upset with the speakers, some with the venue, some with the catering and others with all of the above things all together. As for me, I should admit that EMF-2 was more successfully orchestrated than EMF-3. But I also believe that it’s hard to live up to the ever-growing expectations of participants and keep up with the really high standard set up by the previous forum. I’m convinced that the organizers of the event, the British Council team in Moscow, were trying to do their best and that next year they will take into consideration the merits and setbacks of EMF-3 and will definitely surprise us all with the outstanding organization of E-merging Forum-4.

Yet there was another thought that came to my mind during the EMF-3: the outcome of a conference depends not only on what you take from the event but, to a large extent, on what you bring to it. If you go to a conference with an open mind and heart and you are ready not only to take but to give and share, you’re most likely to be rewarded with positive emotions and fruitful ideas. So, when a conference doesn’t meet your high expectations, this is you who can turn a seemingly upsetting situation into your benefit: just look around and see how many new people are around you – this is your chance to connect and discover. The main treasure of all the conferences are the people and ideas they bring.

In fact, the distinctive feature of EMF-3 was that this year saw hundreds of teachers from all over Russia and some other countries as well who were eager to socialize, share and learn from each other. And that was a really big thing about the Forum which provided the space and unique chance for teachers to meet.

So, all conferences differ, but what unites them all is the chance they give for teachers to come together and enjoy each other’s company, share ideas and savour the feeling of community.

Now, when EMF-3 is over, I just can’t wait E-merging Forum-4! I can’t wait to see here in Moscow the familiar and dear faces from my PLN. Something is telling me that next year’s forum is going to be really special. And it will be, if you all find time to come!

I’m looking forward to meeting you all in Moscow in March, 2014!

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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in ELT Conferences

 

Cold Day – Warm Smiles: Lindsay Clandfield in Moscow

A couple of weeks ago, Lindsay Clandfield visited Moscow, Russia, with two presentations as part of Macmillan Conference at People’s Friendship University of Russia.

The first presentation Let’s wise up, not dumb down was mainly devoted to promoting the new Andvanced level of Global coursebook. However the key idea of the talk was that modern coursebooks should provide an interesting and motivating content along with developing critical thinking in learners. As an introduction and, in fact, a leading idea to his presentation, Lindsay quoted a Japanes physicist, Sumio Iijima who said that “True education means forstering the ability to be interested in something.”

Here you can find a PDF file with Lindsay’s presentation.

In his second presentation that day, Lindsay spoke about how to connect ideas in advanced level writing. And if we take the presentation title Making the link metaphorically, it’ll become clear that the conferences like this are more than just about promoting coursebooks and sharing latest teaching techniques but are also about establishing the link between educators around the world.

This is, in fact, what Lindsay Clandfield actually did on that frosty winter day: he not only shared his knowledge and expertise with us but also gave us his shining smile that warmed our hearts and reminded us once again that whereever we went we’ll find like-minded teachers and friends in every corner of the world. And this is how the link is made.

At the end of the conference I was lucky to interview Lindsay and ask him some questions concerning  the audience, coursebooks and Lindsay’s professional plans for the near future. Below you can watch the interview and read the transcript if you find the sound too quiet.

I’m very grateful to Lindsay for finding time to aswer my questions, to Macmillan team for bringing Lindsay to Moscow and other Russian cities, and to Anna Loseva for her enormous help in recording the video.

Interview with Lindsay Clandfield

[Transcript]

L – Lindsay Clandfield

A – Alexandra Chistyakova

A: Hello Lindsay!
L: Hello!
A: I’d like to welcome you to Moscow, Russia. We’re always glad to see you here.
L: Thank you. Very good.
A: My first question to you: how is Russian audience different from audience in other countries?
L: I don’t think it’s different, although, I would say, what I enjoy about Russian teachers, is that they are often not afraid to voice opinions although they are very respectful in the audience. When they want to say something they will say it, and it sounds very refreshing. But otherwise, my experience here has been very respectful audiences, nice teachers. They seem very professional.
A: Oh, thank you. Today you presented the new Advanced level of the Global course book by Macmillan. And it seems to comprise the latest and best techniques and achievements in teaching methodology. So, it looks very impressive. Thank you so much for your hard work!
L: Thank you. Thank you for the nice words.
A: My next question is: what is your opinion on course books? You know this ongoing discussion for and against course books. What do you think?
L: I think the discussion for and against course books is very good for our profession because it makes us think of what we do. I, personally, don’t have a problem with course books. And I think, where possible, it’s a matter of a teacher’s preference. Unfortunately for many teachers, they don’t have a choice whether or not to use course books. My feeling is course books might be very helpful in providing structure and a sense of progression throughout a course. And that even when using course books, you can still allow time for students to meaningful interaction between the students and between the students and the teachers. So I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. I think any problems that have been with course books have been with course books that are not so good as opposed to course books that I think are better. I use a lot of my competitors’ course books. I don’t always use my own. I use my competitors’ course books. I like some better than others. And that’s where the problem lies: not in the fact it’s a book itself, it’s more an execution of how things are different than what teachers are used to. So I think course books are here to stay. I think it’s worth trying to always improve on what we have to allow more voices, different stuff to happen within course books. Course books represent a tangible growth of our methodology, so you can look back on course books and see where we are in methodology, historically, and not make the same mistakes. That’s why they are useful also from a wider perspective. But I don’t think that a teacher who doesn’t teach with a course book is teaching any better or worse than one who does: it depends on an individual teacher and how they interact with their students.
A: Ok. So how do you feel when the work on the new level of Global is done? What are your feelings and emotions?
L: Immensely relieved! And usually when the work like this is finished that’s when the promotion and touring starts. So one kind of work stops and another kind of work begins. But I’m very pleased and proud of the course series as a whole. So generally satisfied.
A: Oh, great! And What’s on your professional to-do list now?
L: My professional to-do list … It seems you’ve finished a series of course they start talking about, if it’s doing well, they start a new version of this series. So professional to-do list is to start thinking about an updated version or a new version of Global, especially with technology stuff. On my professional to-do list, I’m also still working on The Round and trying to get new authors, new projects into that publishing project. And maybe a couple of other books for teachers which I’m thinking of doing myself including one on grammar for teachers. That’s keeping me busy, keeping me out of trouble.
A: Thank you very much, Lindsay, for coming! It’s been a pleasure to see you here in Moscow. Thank you very much.
L: Thank you very much! And thank you for iTDi for interviewing me!
A: Thank you!
 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in ELT Conferences

 

Jim Scrivener’s back in Moscow

There he was, slowly coming up the stage. Over 15 years later, he was back to Moscow for only one day to give talks on issues he is presently concerned with at the annual Macmillan Conference in June, 2012.

He addressed the public with the poem by Philip Larkin:

Days

What are days for?

Days are where we live.

They come, they wake us

Time and time over.

They are to be happy in:

Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question

Brings the priests and the doctors

In their long coats

Running over the fields.

This is how Jim Scrivener elegantly advanced his cause of bringing literature back into the classroom.

All at once, the whole audience was grasped by Jim’s and poem’s charm. All usual hums and noises subsided instantly; everybody was tuned in and eager for more.

Jim didn’t fail to meet the audience’s expectations. He gave a highly inspirational talk on how literature can be easily integrated into modern communicative teaching.

First of all, Jim pointed out that literature has been unjustly thrown out of the language classroom in the sake of the communicative techniques. However, a book, Jim claimed, can and has to be a social experience, which means a shared experience.

Literature allows us to communicate through time and space: we can learn about the past and predict possible futures; it can take us to places we have never been to. Books address our emotions and integrate with our own lives. In fact, literature IS communication and language in use. If you look at books from this perspective, you will easily see how greatly they can contribute to the communication between the language learners and to learning languages as well.

Jim quoted Alan Maley’s 7 reasons why literature should be more widely used in language teaching, they are: literature’s universality, non-triviality, personal relevance, variety, interest it generates, economy and suggestive power, and ambiguity.

Then, Jim went to speak about how to introduce literature to learners without putting them off it but instead by wetting their appetite for it. The prime questions here are “How can teachers get learners to enjoy a text?” and “How can teacher get them to “swim around” and take pleasure from it?” Jim admits that there are no easy answers to these questions but he believes that anything that involves learners and brings them to literature will definitely help.

To the traditional “predict and then pre-teach vocabulary” way of introducing texts, Jim offers an alternative of getting students into the meaning before they meet the text. One way to do so is to set up a discussion around the topic raised in the text or to put learners into a situation described in the text and to ask them to perform some tasks or to solve some problems arising from the situation. In this way learners will live though the situation and when they are reading the text they will easily get the meaning without stumbling over unknown words.

Jim suggested some other ways to introduce a text. There could be a picture dictation, a comic based on the original book, or a word cloud with the words from the text so that learners could predict what the text they are going to read is about.

To make reading even more powerful tool in language learning, it can be accompanied with some writing activities which will help learners to develop their language production skills. During his presentation, Jim mentioned some creative writing activities which, in my opinion, will undoubtedly be welcomed by learners. Among many other activities there were a six word story, acrostic and spine poems, using a metaphor or a simile from the text for learners to complete with their own ideas and many other.

Jim also offered some amusing activities that can be used while reading longer texts, such as Talk Show, The News issues, a Fakebook and others.

All in all, I should hardly think that after Jim Scrivener’s inspiring talk there was anyone left unconvinced that it’s high time for literature to make its victorious comeback into language classrooms.

Jim Scrivener’s second presentation that day had an intriguing title: Can teachers teach?

Certainly, Jim didn’t question our teaching skills, but the point he was about to make had a solid footing. I can’t agree more with Jim that a lot of teaching is going on but it is leading to relatively little learning. No doubt teachers are doing their job well but the result of their hard work isn’t the one that they would expect. Jim claims that neither teachers nor methods are inadequate but the lack of demand and challenge learners face is to blame here.

According to Jim, in the modern classroom, “generalized encouragement replaced the feedback on what students can do better”, which doesn’t lead to upgrading learners’ language. “The teacher is somehow satisfied with less.” That’s why we can see a large undemand in the language classroom where learners are underchallenged. “Somehow teachers tend to step back and vanish into the wallpaper or perform too much of entertaining”. As the result the learning goals are lost and unachieved.

To tackle this problem, Jim Scrivener and his colleague and friend Adrian Underhill came up with the idea of Demand-High Teaching. Here is their manifesto:

  1. It is OK to teach.
  2. We need to focus on where the learning is.
  3. You have permission to be active interventionist teacher.
  4. Learn the classroom management techniques that make a difference.
  5. Risk working hands-on with language.
  6. Expect more – demand high.

I think it’s pointless to describe all the principles of the Demand-High Teaching in great detail here. It’s better to learn about it firsthand by visiting Jim and Adrian’s blog specifically devoted to the approach. There, one can find the detailed explanation of principles, lots of articles and other materials. I highly recommend visiting the blog and taking part in the discussions.

http://demandhighelt.wordpress.com/

The only thing I would like to add here is the way out suggested by Jim which is to try to increase the doable demand on students’ performance. Surely this is a little shift that can lead to considerable improvements in learners’ performance and language acquisition.

To sum up, I’d like to say that those who came to the conference that day were happy not only to listen to two (not just only one as it’s usually the case at any conference) talks by Jim Scrivener but also to socialize informally with him during the break.

It was such a pleasure to see Jim Scrivener in person here in Moscow! I wish Jim could come to Russia much more often. I’m looking forward to seeing him back as soon as possible.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in ELT Conferences