How to submit proposals

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Natalia Guerreiro has recently posted this lovely text about responding to conference calls for presenters. She says that the key word is PREPARE, and then goes on to provide good advice for each of the letters: P is for ‘pick your passion‘, R is for ‘remember your audience‘, and all the way to E for ‘enlist help‘. It’s all very true!

Natalia ends her post with: “Above all, try.” Now, did you know that Tyson Seburn of the Calendar of ELT Events has a chart for proposal deadlines?

ELTons: the Oscars of ELT

eltons

Did you watch the livestream last night? Some great speakers there, and of course the nominees. If you are planning to watch the recording, watch out for Susie Dent’s introductions, her malaphors will have you in stitches! How about snackcident (when you were going to eat just one crisp but ended up eating the whole pack), texpectation (when you are waiting and waiting for that text message), or epiphanot (when you were trying to say something profound but it didn’t come out this way)?

If you’re into inspiring moments, check out Helena Gomm (her speech starts at 1.07) who introduced the lifetime achievement award for the wonderful Tessa Woodward.

And if you are looking for practical ideas for the classroom, there are loads! My all-time favourite among the winners is Tim’s Pronunciation Workshop from BBC. The learning video game Learn English with Rubi Rei looks really promising, too.

My wish list has grown by two teacher training books; in fact, all of the teacher training nominees are excellent and I can’t wait to get my hands on these resources.

What about you, any impressions to share?

On mechanical teaching

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A great article by a teacher in North Carolina who realised how important it is to create materials for his own students rather than use ready-made one-size-fits-all handouts and videos from the Internet. I was able to read the whole article through a blog subscription, but I’m not sure it’s possible now. Still, here it is.

In short, the author says that by using materials created by others  he allowed “technology to replace too much of my own labor and with it to replace the soul of my teaching.” I find myself agreeing with him more and more: there’s so much available online and in published sources, and yet it never fits my goals perfectly. And yet, ready-made materials save you loads of time and can be quite useful. Where are you on this cline?

Wondering about whiteboards

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Have you seen this amazing post by Peter Pun on whiteboards in the classroom? It’s actually a ready-made teacher training session, complete with activities and examples. I would strongly recommend it for self-study and start with diagnostics: look at your saved board or picture from a last lesson. When a student asked you a word, did you simply board it? Or did you mark the stress, other pronunciation difficulties, what it collocates with, its opposites? The opportunities are endless, and if we’re not using them, our students might well be missing out on useful learning. (Mine certainly sometimes do, but I’m working on it!)

How to avoid psychological misconceptions

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Here is a nice weekend piece to read: an interview with Art Markman, a psychology professor and populariser, about the use of psychological advances in education. You can listen to the podcast (it’s 25 minutes), or skim the article instead, and perhaps get some of your questions answered. For example, why haven’t we sorted out the human brain yet? Or: does mindfulness really make you more creative? Or, surprisingly: is it always useful to develop a growth mindset? Hmm.

Compare it with the post about learning myths, and you can consider yourselves armed against fads in education!

Feynman’s learning rules

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Here is a great longread by Anshul Khare about principles  of learning used by Richard Feynman, a famous physicist and Nobel laureate. Apparently, there is a big difference between knowing something and knowing about something, and one simple way to move from declarative knowledge to procedural (oops, I’ve just caught myself using jargon – a big no-no!) is to teach somebody what you have learned.

This is far from surprising, but do check the article for a complete list of Feynman’s steps, terms like ‘chauffeur knowledge’ and ‘the map of the cat’ and quotes like this:

“Teaching isn’t just a way to communicate ideas. The act of teaching generates new ideas in the mind of the teacher. Teaching is thinking. Teaching is learning.”

Listen, listen, little star

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Here is a nifty list of tips and activities for listening to podcasts from the ESL Library. It’s great for self-study and for student counselling; some of the tasks could easily be done in the classroom, and not necessarily with podcasts. The best advice comes at the end: use one tip per podcast only.

My favourite, apart from the last one, is ‘Just listen and enjoy’, and yours?

The QFT technique: how to encourage students to ask questions

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Here is a challenge for you: use the Question Formulation Technique in an English classroom. In essence, the teacher gives the students a question focus, the students produce, improve and prioritise their questions; then together they decide on next steps (research, presentation) and reflect on what they have learned. It’s explained in greater detail in the article; if you need more, there is a whole website about ‘asking the right questions’.

I can see how it can work with a grammar point or a collocation, or perhaps a semantic field. Or we could simply use the language as a tool and focus on non-linguistic topics, do a class survey or a web quest. The best part is that the students get to take active ownership of their learning and begin to think like researchers. What do you think?

Teaching with telescopic texts

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I have found this really cool educational tool in Ozge Karaoglu’s blog: when you click on a part of sentence, it unfolds into more words and you end up with a huge sentence that is almost like a text. You can write your own sentences, or use the little demo about tea.

I recommend checking Ozge’s post for more links and examples of its use in teaching – really good stuff!

Don’t be too positive

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A useful reminder from Lolly Daskal to appreciate people who think ‘negatively’, i.e. are not overwhelmingly positive: they understand the challenges ahead, plan better and are in fact realists rather than pessimists. Add to this the post on excessive and useless praise from Jennifer Gonzalez, and you are ready to face the week in a constructive mood!

I like pessimists. They’re always the ones who bring life jackets for the boat.

LISA KLEYPAS, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (quote found here)