The IATEFL Experience

Being at my nineteenth or so IATEFL annual conference makes me realise again how good it is to be able to spend five days on my professional interests together with colleagues from all over the world. It is great to immerse in the world of teaching English as a foreign language and explore the many aspects that I deal with in my daily teaching (and materials writing) practice. It is an intensive week packed with inspirational talks, engaging workshops, interesting meetings with like-minded people and a full plunge in the English speaking world. It is clear that I really enjoy this annual ‘recharging’ event.

This year one of my points of interest is going to sessions and looking into materials for teaching phonetics and pronunciation, as this is one of my new teaching areas at our college of education. So far I have not attended any session on this subject, having missed one session because the room was full and one because of a last minute decision to go for another session at the same time slot. Fortunately I did manage to browse some books on pronunciation and phonetics at the exhibition to possibly replace the book we are using right now at the exhibition. I found a book from Garnett that looks like it covers more or less what we currently do with our first year student teachers and I look forward to exploring that further when I get back home: Smith J., Margolis, A., English for Academic Study: Pronunciation (2012), Garnett Education.

Just before leaving for the conference my colleague and I finished our brand new TELL and Teaching course with the second year students, so obviously my eyes and ears aim at a lot of the technology sessions available at the conference. Yesterday’s plenary by Joy Egbert was very good in that respect as it triggered some new ideas for next academic year, for example on how to approach the students, and it confirmed quite a few of the things that we have already done. 

At the same time it provided a useful set of principles for students to bear in mind when preparing lessons, with or without the use of technology:

1) Authenticity (authentic to the learner)

2) Connection to life

3) Provide social interaction or deep individual focus

4) Offer practice and Feedback

5) Challenge/ Skills balance

In the follow-up session Joy told us she actually uses the five principles as one of the requirements to check a student lesson plan. Her student teachers must really plan how to engage their learners beforehand, which is something that appeals to me a lot as I think engagement is key for any lesson. Ever since I saw the clip Pay Attention on You Tube, I try to ‘Engage them, don’t enrage them’; ‘them’ being my students, who are future teachers themselves, which is why I try to remind them of this motto all the time. Yesterday another blogger wrote a full blogpost on this plenary talk, which you can find here.

Apart from this talk, I have attended some other sessions on technology so far, some of which were no more than ‘A fool with a tool is still a fool’ in that they were no more than a simple exchange of apps and other tools not completely convincing the audience of its useful application in the classroom. A talk that did do more and was very useful though, was Paul Driver’s talk on the use of augmented reality in language teaching. His presentation on a project he did was very both informative and inspiring. He provided useful references to his influencers and many ideas to apply in our TELL and Teaching programme.

I hope to attend some more interesting sessions today. Obviously, I will start with Nicky Hockly’s presentation about the use of mobile devices in class and how teachers should use them effectively so that it supports the students’ learning process. After that, I will go to Luke Meddings’ talk on pronunciation, which sounds very interesting: what key elements in an accent can you study to copy it? For the sessions after that, I have found workshops and talks that relate to my other teaching and writing activities, so in my next post you can read what else I have experienced at the conference. I have completed my planner with an exciting programme, so I can’t wait to get started on day 3!