Principles and theory
Language-focused teacher development
Many strands of ELT emphasize the importance of interaction, responding to students language needs in the moment and creating language-rich classrooms. In this talk, we argue that while these are valuable approaches in principle, in practice they demand a lot of teachers – and teacher education and development programmes may not address these problems. We will finish by suggesting some tasks for teachers to develop their language awareness on an ongoing basis.
20 / 20 vision: twenty things in twenty years
This talk aims to summarise the most important lessons learned over two decades in the classroom, in a pithy, entertaining and provocative manner. Some of the twenty points covered are the fact that the true purpose of working on pronunciation in class is actually to aid listening; the fact that the manner in which we’re taught to think about grammar hinders our teaching; the way in which recipes overshadow the vital importance of theory – and the necessity of avoiding Neuro-linguistic Programming and other ideas on learning styles
Technology & principles in language teaching
This talk in part questions the widely held assumption that technology is good in and of itself – and that teachers who don’t use it are by default poor teachers or unprofessional. It then looks at certain examples of apps and technology for teaching and the ‘principles’ that are implicit within them. We argue that often these are ‘principles’ that have long been discredited. We also express concerns regarding quality and time involved with tech, before presenting some alternative principled uses of technology.
Five Golden Rules
The Lexical Approach has been with us for over two decades, but the ideas that inform it have been slow to trickle down into the classroom. To counter this, this talk lays out Five Golden Rules that lead to better – and more lexical – teaching. We will consider the importance of using lexically-rooted material – and the implications for the classroom; how we can foster better language awareness in our learners; alternative ways of thinking about correction; how to explain, exemplify and use students to expand – and the hows and whys of personalised practice.
Problems and possibilities of teaching lexically
This talk summarises the implications of a lexical approach for the way teachers view language, considers the sea change in syllabus that this necessitates and give an overview of the problems those willing to undertake such a shift in perspective can expect to encounter. It then moves on to discuss the possibilities teaching lexically allows: the introduction of lexically-rich materials into the classroom, a move towards a more input-oriented methodology and a down-playing of tense-oriented grammar in favour of lexis in all its shapes and forms – collocations, single words, idioms, fixed phrases and so on.
ELF and other fairy tales
This provocative session challenges some common assumptions about English as a Lingua Franca and English Language Teaching. Among other things, we suggest that there is not a native speaker bias in ELT materials; that students may well want ELT materials to be more native-speaker-centric, rather than less; that the current debate about ELF is anti-teaching at heart; and that any attempt to define ELF is essentially doomed. Finally, we look at some principles by which teachers can make informed decisions about which language to teach – and what kind of pronunciation goals are appropriate.
TEFL and the midlife crisis
This talk uses the metaphor of the midlife crisis to discuss certain dominant trends in English Language Teaching. This leads on to a workshop discussion of teacher beliefs – and the claim that if we had greater thought and openness about the beliefs and principles that guide both teachers and trainers, then we may avoid such swings in teaching practice as are sometimes seen in ELT.
In the wrong level
This talk looks at reasons why students may feel they are in the wrong class and how teachers may find themselves using books that don’t suit their students’ level. It argues that there is a fundamental lie underpinning existing levels of coursebooks and that too frequently we underestimate the time needed to reach proficiency. To make matters worse, this can sometimes be exacerbated by teachers’ lack of a language focus and by coursebooks’ emphasis on building blocks of tense grammar. The talk suggests some structural and practical classroom-based solutions to mixed-level classes.
The Curse of Creativity
This talk critiques the peculiar construct of creativity that much of the ELT world seems to be in thrall to. We suggest that in all areas of human endeavour it is actually the routine, the formulaic, the predictable and the mundane that underpin the creative process. This is as true for classroom practice as it for language use and thus has serious implications for teachers, trainers and materials writers.
Translation: tackling the taboo
For too long, translation has been taboo in too many classrooms. This blanket ban stems from both native speaker dominance AND a failure to appreciate the many benefits translation can offer, resulting in a deskilling of teachers – particularly non-natives. In this taboo-busting talk, I will explore the uses (and, of course, abuses) of L1 use in class.
What have corpora ever done for us?
In this talk, whilst acknowledging the debt we owe to corpora, we explore several key issues that arise from the privileged position corpora currently hold. Among other things, we critique and complicate the notion that word frequency is important; the native-speaker bias that permeates corpora; the socially-constructed and mediated nature of corpora; the limitations of corpora for materials writing purposes; and the way corpora accidentally rob teachers of their common sense and hunches.
Do as I say and not as I do
This talk begins with a critical overview of short initial training courses, suggesting that they do not sufficiently reflect real teaching practice – in particular, in terms of the length of lessons trainees teach; the discrete presentation of grammar points teachers are forced into; the lack of time allowed for teachers to respond to students and to try some spontaneous teaching; and, finally, the limited focus on language they allow. We close by suggesting some tentative alternative solutions.
Lexis, Speaking and the Non-Native Speaker Teacher
That much everyday language use is highly formulaic is now widely accepted. However, there has been much debate as to whether such a view of language has any relevance for non-native speaker teachers of English as an International Language. There have been countless claims put forward to explain why non-natives may well struggle with less traditional modes of teaching. We believe that there are sound reasons why non-natives have the upper hand when it comes to teaching lexically. We outline these reasons whilst also addressing the flexible cultural positions language can be utilized in, the lunacy of demonizing translation and the wonders of local knowledge!