Techniques and activities

Rethinking Teacher Talking Time
This talk challenges the conventional view that less teacher talking time (TTT) is by definition a good thing, and claims instead that such views get in the way of sensible discussion abut the uses (and abuses) of TTT. Whilst recognising that some kinds of TTT do more harm than good, we would also like to propose that TTT is actually at heart of much of what good teachers do: explaining and modelling usage of new language; modelling tasks and exercises; retelling students’ stories; eliciting and even simply just chatting – as through chat, much else of use often develops.

Using the whiteboard to teach language better
This talk is based on a small research project conducted a few years ago, which looked at what teachers wrote on the board, teachers’ beliefs about board work, students’ reactions to board work and the notes they took from it. The findings raise a number of questions: how much we teach; where students’ notes come from and what they do with them; the examples we give as teachers – and how far teacher beliefs are actually reflected in practice. Some suggestions are given with regard to training.

Teaching Grammar Better
The majority of students spent many hours studying grammar forms and meanings and doing practice exercises. Nevertheless, most still struggle to put this knowledge into practice. In this talk, we suggest that the kind of PPP (Present, Practise, Produce) lessons that dominate ELT are part of the problem, and that if we want students to use the grammar they study, we need to start teaching grammar differently – and better. This involves thinking more about how grammar is used; doing away with the study of structures in isolation; ensuring more frequent recycling of grammatical structures within examples of everyday conversations and doing different things with different kinds of grammar at different levels.

A Dogme approach to coursebooks
With its emphasis on conversation, emergent language and a materials light approach, Dogme has long been seen as antithetical to coursebooks. However, in this practical polemic we argue that it doesn’t have to be this way and that Dogme can offer sensible guidelines for both the use and construction of coursebooks!

Better writing outcomes
This workshop looks at the idea of two categories of writing – writing as general practice and writing to develop within a particular genre. The first can vary from notes to example sentences to extended writing, but is not restricted by rules or text types. We consider its value, look at some exercise types and think about how we might best provide feedback. Where students need to produce a particular kind of text, such as in an exam or in a work situation, we need to focus on specific rules, grammar and vocabulary for those texts and show models of how they work. Again, feedback needs to reflect this.

Performing memorization in class
The role of memory in language learning has remained sadly neglected for far too long. In this provocative talk, we will be exploring why the activation of memory is so central and, with the use of classroom videos, exploring four key ways in which teachers can encourage students to perform memorization.

Taking revision and recycling seriously
With the help of personal anecdotes, this talk expands on the key idea of repeated comprehended encounters with language over time being essential for learning. Through the talk and practical workshop elements, we’ll see how we can integrate the process of recycling into more of our teaching (and how it’s particularly effective with vocabulary) and then consider how students keep notes and how we check on them. We will also look at some simple revision exercises any teacher can use with almost no preparation.

Teaching grammar lexically
Given its name, it’s perhaps logical to assume that a lexical approach to language teaching is more interested in vocabulary than grammar. In reality, though, it means a far more constant and thorough coverage of grammar than many more traditional approaches. In this talk, we’ll be considering what teaching grammar lexically might involve – and exploring why it’s better! We’ll touch upon the problems of a structures + words approach for the learning of both grammar and vocabulary; the lexical limits of much grammar; the importance of grammar as lexis, particularly at lower levels – and much more on top!

Improving hearing
This talk suggests that listening ‘skills’ would be better conceived as language and hearing abilities. It also suggests that the difference of listening for gist and for specific information is less an issue of only listening to certain bits, and more of what we choose to remember. We will look at some practical tasks we can do to reorient different stages of listening lessons towards the teaching of language and also at tasks that help with pronunciation and the hearing of language. Finally, we look at the role of a listener in conversation and the importance of teaching language for this.

Using technology to achieve better outcomes
Over recent years, teachers in the ELT industry have been bombarded with a never-ending stream of new technological innovations. More and more of our Continuing Professional Development time is given over to getting to grips with new sites, apps, devices, tools and toys. For many of us, this can seem overwhelming. Where to begin? What to focus on most? And why? And how can all the new advances be integrated into our teaching in a principled, language-focused way? In this talk, we outline eight technological innovations that we have integrated into our own teaching – explaining what we use, how we use it, and – most importantly – why.

Motivating students a ten-step guide
Keeping students interested in the learning process is one of the biggest challenges we face. In this talk, we explore practical ways of ensuring motivation levels stay high. We consider the importance of listening – and talking – to students and of engaging in meaningful communication; we discuss the importance of teaching useful language that is useful; we look at what it means to teach the class first and the coursebook second – and learn how (and why!) to correct through reformulation of whole language. Finally, we suggest that the key to motivation may well lie in worrying less about topics – and more about language.

Making the leap from grammar to lexis
Grammar is reassuring. As teachers, we have all invested time and effort in working out how to explain it. Yet it only takes students so far. This talk explores the fears around making the leap into the unknown and beginning to teach more lexically – and suggests eight ways of making the transition easier.

Localising the global coursebook
As ELT became a global industry, so too did coursebooks. In their attempts to be all things to all people, and to somehow be about everywhere, coursebooks often end up feeling as if they are about nowhere in particular. When there is a recognizable identity, frequently it is Anglo-centric. For teachers outside native-speakers contexts, with students who possess varying degrees of motivation, this can pose serious problems: how can teachers make their students feel as if English relates to them, their lives and their own realities? In this talk, we explore these questions and suggest that the way teachers deal with everyday classroom materials can have a profound effect on students’ relationship with English.