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IATEFL: The best bits

A few weeks ago Heather and I spent a long weekend in Brighton, or ‘London-on-Sea', as it’s sometimes known. No, not for a weekend of fish ‘n’ chips and ice-cream but to the annual conference of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, or IATEFL for short. What can I say? We’re a dedicated bunch here at LSE, ever keen to further our professional development!

Call me geeky (and Heather, I know you will!)  but I actually love conferences, although I’m not sure why.  I’d like to say it’s because I relish the opportunity to share ideas with respected practitioners in my field but secretly I think I love all of the free pens and endless cups of coffee.  However, even armed with a decent amount of enthusiasm we were both suffering from conference fatigue by the end of each day.

So now the dust has settled, I’ve produced a highly concentrated digest of my time at the Brighton Centre.  It’s basically a list of all the sessions I went to with what I took to be the key point from each.  This post covers Saturday and I’ll be telling you about Sunday and Monday’s sessions in the next few weeks.  If you’re one of the delegates and you’re reading this, please feel free to comment if you disagree with my summary - although as experienced teachers you’ll no doubt be aware that what you teach and what students learn is not necessarily the same! 

Web 2.0 tools for IELTS speaking, A Wilson and S Dempsey

Sometimes, preparing for the IELTS exam can seem ever so slightly dull.  Luckily, there are loads of different web 2.0 tools out there which can help to liven things up, such as  Vocaroo,(www.vocaroo.com) a free site which enables you to easily record short monologues and then email them to people.  In the classroom, this means students recording practice for the speaking test and emailing it to their teacher for feedback! 

Where reading and grammar meet, Michael Swan

We spend a lot of time teaching reading techniques like predicting content, skimming and scanningHowever, Swan suggested that what really slows students down in reading is not knowing enough vocabulary, and not being familiar with complex reduced sentences, such as 'The tie I bought my father was very flamboyant.'

There is (no) need for that!  Martin Warters

This was one of the most oversubscribed sessions of the weekend, with Martin kindly letting keen latecomers crowd in and sit on the floor!  He wanted to know whether or not we should teach impolite language in the classroom.  Traditionally teachers have tended to steer clear of teaching bad language, or have actively discouraged it.  Martin’s point was that unfortunately when students are out of the classroom and in the ‘real world’, they may encounter rude native speakers.  Our group conclusion was that while we might not want to teach impolite forms of speech, there’s certainly an argument for equipping learners with appropriate responses for when such language is directed at them.

‘Arousal’ in the ELT classroom, Tamara Jones

Learners need to be engaged!  The teacher can do this with a variety of games and competitions.  Most teachers do this already but Tamara takes it one stage further, in the knowledge that neuroscience shows that excitement helps us to learn, and when we learn, the connections in our brains actually change! 

The ELT Blogosphere symposium

Well, Heather and I picked up some tips and tricks for blogging, which we hope we’re putting into practice on the blog!

So, that was an exhausting first day!  I’d like to know what you think about the issues here – have you used Vocaroo?  If so, what do you think?  What slows down your (or your students’) reading in English – is it vocabulary, grammar or something else?  Would you like to teach or be taught bad language, or would you find it offensive?  Do you enjoy games in the classroom, or a more sedate learning environment?  Let me know!

By Laura 


to relish (v.) - to thoroughly enjoy something

conference fatigue (n.) - extreme tiredness as a result of attending conferences

digest (n.) - a summary

delegates (n.) - people attending a conference

skim (v.) - to read something quickly to get a general understanding of it

scan (v.) - to read quickly for specific information

flamboyant (adj.) - highly coloured and/or patterned

to steer clear (phr.) - to avoid

sedate (adj.) - calm and quiet

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