Well, actually, I say day 1, but I really mean that it was day 1 for me. The conference kicked off with poster presentations and an opening plenary on Extensive Reading (it’s good, y’know…) on Friday 26th. I, however, was still on the Eurostar at that point and arrived in Paris at 11pm. So, here’s my round up of the TESOL France Saturday:
I arrived at the venue about 9am, registered and paid, before looking at the programme and deciding where to go and who to see. Then across the table I heard a voice ‘Mike??’, looking up to see Vicky Loras (this would be the first of a good few meetings with people I know from Twitter). I was amazed how normal it felt to meet fellow tweeters face to face. Pretty soon, Anita Kwiatkowska, Vladka Michalkova and Eva Buyuksimkesyan had also turned up (I had been hoping to see them on the Friday night, but I guess not all people are night owls all the time!). It was great to be able to finally put voices to all those tweets. Then we (me, Vladka, Eva and Vicky) went off to our first workshop of the day:
Dede Wilson – Motivation, Fun and Building Confidence with Pronunciation
-Mike vagyok, es te?
That was a brief, basic conversation in Hungarian that Dede had us all pronouncing pretty well by the end of the first few activities during her session on pronunciation. There were examples of using choral and individual drilling (together with some nice body language and gesture) to teach basic expressions. Dede told us to make ‘rubber faces’ and really make the sounds of English visible (echoing for me a lot of what Adrian Underhill talked about at BELTE), highlighting the need to teach the sounds, since if it doesn’t exist in the learner’s language, they won’t be able to hear it. We did various miming ping pong activities, introduced phonetic symbols by going through the alphabet (also very useful for spelling), matching activities (Roman alphabet with phonetic symbols), and talked about problem areas like minimal pairs. All in all, a very useful workshop for me, and some good ideas for taking further work I’ve been doing with Adrian’s pron chart. Many thanks, Dede!!
Anna Musielak – Drama: It is never too much of a good thing
Ken Wilson has said it: ‘The amazing Ania Musielak – she did the best drama workshop I’ve seen for a LONG time…’, and I definitely find myself in agreement with him as to how good Anna’s session was. Anna suggested a number of activities to do using drama and acting techniques in our classrooms, from simple warmers and fillers to more involved sequences. She had us greeting each other as toddlers coming back to school after the holiday, rival fashion models and cool dudes; introducing ourselves to each other without using words; and doing a great ‘Find someone who…’ activity trying to find someone with the same answers to three things: liking the same wine, having spent the night at the airport and having the same birthday. Another really neat activity was acting out short phrases or expressions (Anna suggested using proverbs or phrasal verbs among other things), having matched two halves of said phrases. Participants had to act out the phrase by mime or sketch (crucially, without saying any words from the phrase itself). A great activity and one that could certainly bring out the creativity and imagination in your students! One of the last things we did was rummage around in a bag of everyday objects and assign a different use to them: we ended up with chopsticks used as hair accessories or for picking your nose (!) and a tie being used for cleaning the window =) Thank you very much, Anna!
Then is was time for lunch and, as Eva Buyuksimkesyan said on her blog, it was a great chance to spend time socialising and chatting with like-minded teachers we had met on Twitter.
Russell Stannard – Gems on the web
I was looking forward to this one, if only for the chance to see Russell in the flesh. I’m quite new to ELT, but I knew of Russell’s Webwatcher articles through a colleague at my college. Being someone quite interested in how technology can be used to augment the language classroom, I was eager to see the man in action. I have to say he did not disappoint. Russell told of how he never ‘finds’ anything these days – he gets recommendations from his Twitter network – but what he does do is explore and experiment with the web 2.0 tools that he comes into contact with. There’s a certain energy about him when he talks, and I think this feeds into his research for his Teacher Training Videos, always looking to see what can be got out of technology. Russell showed us some ‘easy peasy, lemon squeezy’ tech tools that could be used for teaching: Vocaroo, a voice-recording tool; Mailvu, a similar tool to Vocaroo, but with the addition of video recording; Wordsift and Wordle; Dvolver, for making short animated movies; and two really smart sites (well, for me): Writing Fun and Storybird. Russell finished off by showing us two of his current faves: Lyrics Training and Jing. All super simple and explained with a common touch – there was not one tool, I think, that could not be used by us in the audience in the near future (depending on country internet filters). You can see Russell’s list here: www.scribd.com/doc/44132621 and of course tutorial videos on his site.
OK, I haven’t given up, David Crystal will have to wait (sorry, Dave). I’m just going to get on and document the rest of Saturday, before it’s 2011.
Anita Kwiatkowska – Documentaries: How to challenge your students with global issues
I had a minor problem before going to see Anita doing her documentary thang – scheduling problems by TESOL France (come on, did you have to put so many fab presenters on at the same time as each other?). Still, not having the cachet to influence the organisation of the conference (I am joking here, by the way – I don’t expect personalised conferences!) I made a decision. And, well, I am really glad I made that decision. Even though, as Anita said on her blog, there was a minor hiccup with the technology (and the French boys weren’t too helpful, to be honest. Thankfully, Elizabeth Anne was there to sort out the laptop), the talk was really good.
Anita showed us a couple of interesting ways in which she had introduced documentaries to her students, through photography (including one of Anita’s own snaps) and something called the line game. Basically, make a line in the middle of the room (use tape, chalk or charcoal) and ask questions. Students stand on the line if the question applies to them. Here’s a video clip from the film Freedom Writers, showing how you play the line game:
Anita gave us the link to a number of free, online documentary websites (you can read more at a post on her blog, L_MissBossy’s ELT Playground, here: Freedocumentaries: watch, learn and understand). We discussed using documentaries in class with our students, how we might introduce them, how we would follow up after watching them. I’m not sure I would use all the documentaries Anita showed us in the session, or on her handout, but certainly they’re potentially very useful resource for teachers. Thanks for a great session, Anita!
Next up: David Crystal?? Maybe, or I might get the rest of Saturday and Sunday written up… =)