Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tagged again!

I've been tagged again in this blog challenge, this time by Hana Ticha @HanaTicha
Here is Hanna's post: 11 Random Facts  Love her photos!

I won't try to come up with another 11 random facts about myself - see my previous post for those, but here are my answers to Hana's questions: 

1. If you could change one thing about education in your country, what would it be?
That governments consult with and listen to the teachers about what they need, rather than imposing ever more administrative burden and other tasks not related to teaching and learning that take them away from teaching and learning.

2.  Have you ever thought of quitting your job as an educator? Why?
No, this is my third major career change, and there have been several minor ones in each of those. I did dabble in educational design and technology for a term recently, but missed the ELT too much.

3.  What's your earliest memory as an educator?
I can remember my first day on the job very clearly, but the day that I remember most was when someone asked me what I did, and I answered without hesitation “I’m a teacher here.” and it suddenly dawned on me that I was a teacher and I had earned the title. 

 4.  Is education valued where you live? If not, what is the main reason?
Depends who you talk to.  We always seem to be fighting for adequate and fair funding from various levels of government, so that indicates that it isn't valued enough.

5.  How do you think we could help to make teaching a more prestigious job?
Acknowledge all the unpaid work that teachers do, the ‘above and beyond’. That would probably require teachers to first stop doing it for free which is not going to happen because most of us care too much.

6.  Apart from burning-out, what's the biggest danger for a teacher?
Caring too much and wanting to do everything they can to help every single student. Not enough time, not humanly possible.

7.  Did anyone try to put you off teaching in the past?
Yes, some of my teachers - not explicitly, but in the way they did their job.  But the great ones were great!

8.  Why do you think teaching can bring so much satisfaction but also frustration?
See 6 - you can’t do everything for everyone.

9.  What makes you happy?
Life, the universe, everything.  The same things that can sometimes make me sad, confused, angry, ...

10.  When did you last laugh out loud?
Thursday evening while celebrating a colleague’s 25-years service at my college.  Everyone shared stories of the past 25-years and there were tears of laughter all around.

11.  If your child/best friend wanted to become a teacher, what piece of advice would you give him or her?
Do it, it’s the best job! (Unless teaching clearly wasn’t a good match for that person’s skills, attitude, etc, and then I’d have a longer chat.)

Thanks Hana, lovely to read you post and share my thoughts with you.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tagged, Blogged, Broken ...

Thanks Marisa Constantinides for tagging me for this "kind of a chain blog post in which one blogger tags you on their blog and challenges you to answer some questions and then pass the ball to eleven more bloggers!"  I feel quite honoured as Marisa is a champion to me.  Which is the only reason I'm spending time posting on my one free day between a very hectic end-of-semester rush and packing for 4 weeks away.

Here are the bits of the task that Marisa has invited me to step up to, that I have stepped up to …
  • Share 11 random facts about myself.
  • Answer the 11 questions Marisa has created for me.
  • Post 11 questions for others to answer
 I'm passing on the tagging of others part, see below for my explanation.

11 random facts about myself

  1. My education seems to run in sets of two: I attended two infants schools, 2 primary schools, 2 high schools.  While I’ve attended more than 2 universities, I do have 2 post-graduate diplomas and 2 masters degrees :-)
  2. Before I was an English language teacher I was a web developer, computer programmer, systems analyst, and other ICT roles.
  3. Before I worked in the areas mentioned above I was a librarian, indexer, specialist database searcher, and other information management roles.
  4. And I have mixed the skills developed in 2 & 3 and worked as a systems librarian, and an information architect.
  5. Teaching is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but by far the best and most satisfying thing I’ve ever done.
  6. My favourite sports all involve moving across water: rowing, sailing, kayaking
  7. The only artistic thing I have ever been reasonably successful with has been photography.
  8. I love reading … anything!
  9. My favourite food is bananas - the one food I would really miss if they were no longer around.
  10. I’ve learned little bits of lots of languages, but never stuck with one long enough to progress very far, including: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Polish, Pitjantjatjara
  11. I much prefer hot weather to cold.

My answers to Marisa’s questions - my answers in purple

  1. How long does it usually take you to draft and finalise a blog post?
    Marisa, did you write this question just for me? You know how long it takes me to write an #ELTchat summary - a long time - and you know I need prodding to finalise one.  Most of my blog posts are like that, which is why I'm a very occasional blogger. But sometimes I do whip one off very quickly (like this one - took a long time to start, but I wrote it very quickly).
  2. Which ICT tools do you actually use with your classes?
    Moodle, SMARTboard, iPhone (my own - mostly for dictionaries, recording, quick web searches, and more), iPad (my own - for recording, screencasting feedback of student writing, and more), YouTube, VoiceThread, and more...
  3. What is your absolute dream job?
    Right now, it would be teaching just what students want and need, without any restrictions from a prescribed curriculum, and without the mountain of administrative tasks around reporting, etc.
  4. Which classroom activity do you absolutely enjoy using with your students? One is all I need
    Only one?! The first that comes to mind is Dictogloss - works on so many levels, on many skills, is collaborative and enables me to focus on individual students' needs.
  5. How many of your current friendships  were started through a social network?
    Too many to count!
  6. Which household chore do you hate the most and which one do you love the best?
    Hate: cleaning the toilet, Love: ... still thinking... :-)
  7. Name your 10 desert island CD’s
    Only 10?!  Tough!  When I travelled around Australia I had about 100 CDs in my bus!  If pushed, I'd probably choose these, but I reserve the right to change my mind before being stranded on a desert island.  No particular order...
    • Ed Kuepper - The Butterfly Net
    • The Cruel Sea - The Honeymoon is Over
    • Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes - Night of the Wolverine
    • Deborah Conway - Bitch Epic
    • The Boat That Rocked (soundtrack)
    • The Key of Sea
    • Warsaw Village Band - People's Spring
    • Rodriguez - Cold Fact
    • The Saints - Prehistoric Sounds
    • The Goddess of 1967 (soundtrack)
    Interesting that all except two of these are Australian!
  8. Do you wish you had studied something other than what you did study? Do say what, if the answer is yes.
    No, I think I've studied everything I've wanted to and doubt I've finished studying :-) 
    Maybe wish I'd stuck with one language long enough to master it.
  9. Describe the naughtiest thing you have ever done – within reason, of course
    Probably the naughtiest was riding my motorbike up and down the stairs of the local primary school.  Hope that the statute of limitations protects me from prosecution! But it was when I was around 12 to 15 so I'm probably safe :-)
  10. What artistic aspirations or skills do you have?
    I'd love to be artistic; would especially love to be able to create gorgeous music. But I don't think I have it in me, or perhaps it's because I appreciate good art/music too much to tolerate my piddling efforts.
  11. Which TV series or film do you keep watching again and again?
    Gillian Armstrong's Starstruck - could never get sick of it!

My questions

Like Sue Annan, I will just put out 11 questions without tagging anyone.  I think everyone I know with a blog has already been tagged, and given this almost felt like a chore I had to finish (but not too arduous Marisa), I didn’t want to burden anyone.  And I've always been the person who has broken the chain on any type of chain letters, emails, etc. dating back to my school days.  So, sorry to be a party-pooper, but... the chain stops here!

If anyone gets this far and wants to play, and it is fun responding, here are some questions that I would actually be very interested in reading answers to from any of my PLN-friends:
  1. If you were going to make any New Year’s resolutions, what is the first that comes to mind?
  2. What is your favourite book that you read in 2013?
  3. What musical instrument would you most like to play that you can't already play? 
  4. Are you a morning person or a night person?
  5. What's your favourite song to use with a class, and how do you use it?
  6. What are you like as a language learner?
  7. What is one thing have you taken from your own language learning experience and used in your own teaching?
  8. What is one thing from your own language learning experience that you would never use in a class? 
  9. Where would you first take a visitor to in your home town?
  10. Which country would you most like to visit that you haven't already been?
  11. What is one thing you can suggest to encourage colleagues to share in an online environment? (I'd really love some ideas here :-) )
Thanks again Marisa.  It was fun, and I'm pleased and honoured to have been tagged by you.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Dealing with multi-aged English language classrooms: An #ELTchat summary

When I saw the topic for #ELTchat on 9th October was Dealing with multi-aged classrooms, I wanted to take part, even though the second chat is now at 7am my time and I that’s when I’m out walking in the bush near my house.  I struggled to keep up on my phone, at the same time trying not to trip over anything and keeping one eye on the dog ☺.  Fortunately there weren’t as many participants as usual, so it was easier to follow and I even managed to send off a few tweets of my own.  

I have had a lot of students who have migrated to Australia to perform grandparent duties, that is, helping to care for grandchildren while their parents are working. Consequently they often come to my evening class where the predominant group are younger migrants (though this still varies from 18-60) who are working or studying, so often getting a lot more English input day to day. In contrast, often the ‘grandparents’ don’t have much exposure to English outside of class, particularly when they have come with very low-level English language skills.  I've also had classes with some very young adults who are struggling with making a new life in a new country, often without their family and friends, and sometimes alone.  So this chat was one I didn't want to miss.

The #ELTchat Summary

First of all we chatted about the age ranges we are seeing, or have seen in our classes. 

There were a few of us dealing mostly with adults, with groups from around 18-88 in one class

There were others teaching younger learners - teens and children.  Spans reported were 5 -11, 10-17 and 12-15 year olds, which were variously described as “a challenge”, “a nightmare”, but others found that it wasn’t so problematic and could work well.  @Shaunwilden mentioned that a class with a 6-year age span “covers quite a lot of child development”.

And others reported having classes with mixed teens and adults, with someone mentioning they’d had students as young as 14 years old in an adult class.

This thread prompted @ELTExperiences to ask, Why do we assume that there are greater issues between Young Learners and Adults? adding that “perhaps most issues are with adults than expected”.  The responses included comments that it may be because YLs are more open about showing feelings, where adults keep them in filter; with adults there are benefits that balance any drawbacks; kids want to play and adults want to 'learn'; kids don't want to play with younger kids; intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.

What other differences did chat participants see in learners of different ages?

While there seemed to be general agreement that it depends very much on the individual learner, there were a few observations from participants regarding

> Fluency vs accuracy…
Some felt that younger students are more fluent and older more accurate, while others thought that the older students might be more cautious rather than accurate, or possibly more hung up on accuracy (or even more cautious and that's why more accurate.  Though this wasn’t everyone’s experience.   

> Dependency on translation and grammar explanations
There was a suggestion that older students are more dependent on translation and grammar explanations.  But other have seen the opposite, so it was agred that it usually depends on their educational background and there are exceptions.

> (English) language learning experience
Some older students have experience of communicating in other additional language, and some may have been learning English for many years and have (or have experienced) a different approach.  These were seen as an advantages which could be exploited in the classroom

> Time, will and motivation to learn
Sometimes older students (e.g. retired) have a lot more time to dedicate to studying.  As well as more will and motivation, especially as some teens are obligated by parents and don't really want to be there.   

> Creativity vs knowledge
Someone suggested that younger students are much more creative, while older students 'know' more, which was a good combination.

Are there any limitations to those mixed age groups you would prefer to have - e.g. no teens and grandads or what?

@Marisa_C posed this question, and there were a range of responses, which included: not really if they're all adults; a limit of +14 for "adult" classes; a preference to have teens separate and elders separate (if they want it); and that younger groups (under 17/18) need to be divided.   

Issues & Problems

> Materials
It is hard to find relevant materials to suit all ages, so need to find 'themes' to engage all students.   Fortunately in a country such as Australia, 'settlement' is common, though even 'settlement' is different at different ages too!   

> Discipline
Discipline was mentioned as an issue by quite a few people, in both adult and YL classes.  However, having older adults can help with discipline of younger learners (more on that later). 
There was also the issues of having a parent and child, or a boss and a worker, in the same class

> Past education experiences and expectations
With large age gap there are bound to be different experiences of education and what students expect from a lesson.  Also, how accustomed to studying they are.  There can be an even wider range of past educational experiences in a multicultural class – the teacher can make no assumptions!

> Rates of assimilation   

> Pace
This was seen as a problem especially with the teen/older adult mix.

Teens are at the prime of their L2 acquisition - after 16 all downhill – and it could be hard for a, say, 60 year old to keep up.  But again this does depend on the individuals too - @cerirhiannon had seen some very slow teens!!

Someone felt that teens needs quicker transitions, but another comment was that they think they need quicker transitions but sometimes they... do things too quickly.   

@Shaunwilden mentioned a BBC programme that talked about how critical 2-4 years is: Toddler brain scan gives language insight   

Benefits of mixed aged classes, or ways teachers are working with the differences:

Many of the differences that were mentioned in learners at different ages (also stages, learning styles, etc.) can be exploited in mixed-aged classes, such as: the accuracy vs fluency distinction; that younger students don't need to understand every word; that some older students have experience of communicating in other L2.
Having grandparently types in with younger students can help with discipline.  (as can having a nun or two!).  Having 'older' people in a class with teenagers means that the teacher I can share the job of being the ‘parent’ as there's more than one person they need to respect, which keeps them in line.

There was a side discussion about whether the younger students really respect the adults in the class or accept them as peers?  It can a mixture of both. If everyone is there to learn then the respect is there, but it could be hard for older adults who feel they lose face/respect in class. Some younger students benefit from the diligence of more mature classmates and from participating in grown up conversation.     

Often it’s the older people that are harder work.  @Marisa_C recalled one 75+ year-old keen student roping in a young guy to be his translator – though she said they had a ball!    This type of scenario is an opportunity to work with the differences., getting them to share stories, ideas, experiences.
> Teaching separate lessons for different age groups or using projects
@cerirhiannon commented that, with 5 - 11 year olds, she ended up teaching 3 or 4 separate lessons at the same time.  She finds this hard work but fun and elaborated on how she manages this challenging situation: It wasn't a big class - between 10 and 12 depending on the day and some were brothers and sisters. We had a big table, rugs and cushions on the floor, with games and various activities.  It was like monitoring group work, but on double speed!  We used to have every 4th lesson mixed (ages & levels) in a team-teaching class.  While it was hard work, it was fun and definitely good for the teacher’s fitness ;-)

@HanaTicha felt the mixed age groups seems to work great with project work.  Now and then they do 'project' days and mix classes and found it a good experience.  She felt there could have be a limit to how this would work with different age groups, but that 10-15 is

> Different roles for different age groups
If the group is mostly young then the older students could be scribes during roleplays and discussions! This could serve to gives them a status (@mary28sou)   

A lot of the discussion about mixed ages in a class covered the same ground as discussions about mixed ability levels in a class.

With mixed age groups, we may be seeing mixed abilities, different attitudes not just levels, plus a wider range of needs/wants and learning styles too.    While some felt that teaching different ages is as complex as teaching multiple levels, others felt it was fine if the different ages shared the same level,

@harrisonmike weighed in with another tricky situation: Try virtually pre-literate in L1 alongside PhD level qualified students in same class!   

And as with mixed level/ability classes, some of the same ideas were suggested, such as, arranging tasks and activities so that everyone has chance to 'shine' in class at some time (as well as struggle!).

@Marisa_C summed it up nicely… I think inevitable then we are talking about mixed ability teaching with a sprig of something about different attitudes not just levels.

After the chat - an extension activity...

One of the issues that didn’t come up during the chat was that of use of technology.  Given that we could expect to see a big gap with experience with and comfort level with technology between younger students and much older students, this was a little surprising.   I’ve had older students (60+) who avoid anything to do with computers or other technology, including one memorable student in her late 60s who usually disappeared on the way to the computer lab.  She had basic computer use skills, but felt using a computer for learning English was a waste of time.  However, when I managed to get her to the lab with the rest of the class, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the activity was interesting and useful.  But then she disappeared on the way to the lab the following week again!  At the other end of the scale was another late-60s student who had never used a computer before, and who was terrified the first time I took the class to the lab. I sat with her and helped her through every part of the activity.  The following week I started off giving her a lot of support but she quickly demonstrated that she didn’t need me so much, and the next week proudly told me her son-in-law had bought her a laptop so she could access our LMS at home.  The first time the same student recorded herself speaking in a language lab activity, she was amazed - it was the first time she had heard her own voice! 

Another interesting observation is when I take a class on an excursion.  Being in the centre of our nation’s capital city, we are very fortunate that there are many national institutions (museums, galleries, etc.) within easy walking or ‘bus and walking’ distance.  I usually find that the older students stride ahead with me and then we have to wait on each corner for the students (who are between a half to a third of their age) to catch up!  When I’ve given them a choice between walking or driving somewhere, it’s usually the older ones who want to walk!

For the purpose of the summary, I thought I’d do a quick search to see what I might find on the Web.

This one looked interesting:
Mathews-Aydinli, J. & Van Horne, R. (2006). Promoting the Success of Multilevel ESL Classes: What Teachers and Administrators Can Do. Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA)
Age. Young adults (16-18) differ socially and cognitively from older adults. Although adolescents tend to progress more quickly in their language learning, they also need more structure, guidance, and support to stay motivated (Weber, 2004; Young, 2005). Senior learners also have unique concerns that need to be taken into consideration, such as issues of physical health or hearing and visual acuity (Grognet, 1997).

For elderly refugees it has been particularly difficult. At a time in their lives when they should be looking forward to respect and reverence, they find themselves transplanted in a culture which is focused on youth. They have lost their homes, probably many of their family members, and most of all, their honored status
Grognet, A.G. (1997). Elderly refugees and language learning. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. Denver, CO: Spring Institute for International Studies.

For those interested, there is also mention of elderly learners in this:
AMEP Research Centre Fact sheet – Retention of adult migrant learners

And issues related to teaching youth in mixed-aged classes here:
AMEP Research Centre Fact sheet – Youth in the AMEP

And finally, this one:
Harding, L., & Wigglesworth, G. (2005). Different generations, different needs: Migrant youth in English language programs. Prospect, 20(3), 6–23
This recent Australian study provides a survey of language programs for migrant youth in the AMEP, and details the views of young migrant learners and their teachers/program directors. The authors propose a number of recommendations for the provision of language education for young people in both youth-specific and mixed-age classes.

A few of these refer to the AMEP, which is the Adult Migrant English Program. The most recent statistics I could find on age ranges in the AMEP (right across Australia) are from 2011-12:
Department of Immigration and Citizenship Annual Report 2011–12 (p.250)

#ELTchat participants for this chat:
•    @cioccas
•    @Shaunwilden
•    @HanaTicha 
•    @theteacherjames
•    @cerirhiannon
•    @mattellman
•    @Marisa_C
•    @ELTExperiences
•    @SueAnnan
•    @MicaelaCarey
•    @mary28sou

[Image source:  ]

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why Teaching is the Greatest Job in the World - TeachMEET ACT, August 2013

I've been following the TeachMEET phenomenon for a few years now, and wishing there was one I could attend locally, but without the time or energy, let alone the contacts to organise one myself :-)   So, when I spotted a notice about a TeachMEET in Canberra, I didn't hesitate and registered immediately.

The theme for the TeachMEET was designated as "Why Teaching is the Greatest Job in the World".

Not only did I register to attend but, wanting to be as involved as possible, I submitted a 2-minute presentation on my favourite topic:
Talking and Sharing Online
You know teaching is the greatest job because so many teachers are spending their leisure time learning and sharing online. I want to briefly share some of the enthusiasm and passion I've experienced first hand with teachers around the world who are sharing and learning together online.

The links I shared were the Twitter chat schedules for Australia and global chats on education:
Australian Based Twitter Hashtag Chat Times
Cybraryman's Internet Catalogue - Chats on Twitter
I had promoted the TeachMEET to my faculty at work and also to my local professional association members, and on Twitter, but there were no familiar faces in attendance.  All of the teachers I met were from the schools sector, primary and secondary, but teachers from any and every sector are welcome.

Here's a brief overview of the session, from my perspective of course...

Serendipity Outside the Classroom
Shaun @shaunhaidon spoke about the opportunity for serendipitous moments that occur in teaching that make you realise what a great job it is.
... Especially when you take the students out of the classroom
... or bring guest speakers in
... or getting students involved in competitions
My favourite quote, which sums up Shaun's talk for me:  
"Plan for it, but let the moment happen."

In another serendipitous moment, I learned that Shaun is in the Better Linkages group addressing adult language literacy and numeracy skills that I'm going to be working with at CIT this term.

The greatest thing about teaching is...
Bruce @Bruce1979, the organiser of this TeachMEET,  presented his Top Ten reasons why teaching is the greatest job.  There was a lot more to each of them - you had to be there - but this might give you some idea:
  1. Awareness
    ... of what the students are into
  2. Autonomy
    .... of the teaching job
  3. Intellectual engagement
    ... keep me at the forefront of my intellectual area (and others)
  4. Variety
    ... every day is different
  5. Showcasing students
    ... what they know, do and learn (especially to parents, and to the community)
  6. Community relationships
    ... built more relationships in local community through my job than any other way
  7. Professional growth
    ... no excuse for teachers say they can't access PD
    ... it's the best available in any profession
  8. Other teachers
    ... teachers who are really engaged in their profession are some of the most engaged people in any job
  9. Knowing students
    ... personally
  10. A-Ha!
    ... those a-ha! moment, like the ones Shaun mentioned and so many more!
See Bruce's slides here

Bruce had arranged the program to show videos interspersed between speakers.  There was a brief informal discussion after each video.

Taylor Mali - What Teachers Make

What Teachers Make from DevlinPix on Vimeo.

Leadership from a Dancing Guy

Bruce pointed out that he sees the speakers at this TeachMEET (and earlier meetings) as the leaders, the teachers who got up and danced alone (however well or badly).  And he hoped that it would lead to others jumping up to join in. I kind of like the idea of being one of the first to jump up and be willing to look a little silly, especially since one of the reasons I keep putting my hand up to do presentations like this is in an attempt to overcome my fear of doing presentations like this :-)
After the 'programmed' part of the meeting, a few other teachers offered their own testimonials from the floor.  I enjoyed hearing other teachers share their passion and enthusiasm, which in turn reminded me why I love my job so much!  What an affirming evening this was!

A brief personal reflection

I think my talk went very well, at least I got a lot of very positive feedback afterwards and on Twitter.  I think the teachers at the meeting were very receptive to my message, and ready to hear it, since most, if not all, are already using social media personally and professionally.  I've given similar talks to other groups of teachers who I think have been so far from understanding what social media is all about, that it's a big leap of faith for them to see how it can support professional development.  If those teachers had got anything from my talk, they may have only seen what they could take, not what (and how) they could share.  Whereas the teachers at the TeachMEET were there because they wanted to share!  It was good to preach to the converted for a change :-) 

For more information about TeachMEET ACT:

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Motivating GE Students to Write: an #AusELT chat summary 6 June 2013

Photo credit: Denise Krebs

The topic chosen for the #AusELT chat on 6 June 2013 was Motivating GE Students to Write.

@Eslkazzyb suggested the topic on the #AusELT Facebook group and the discussion started there - demonstrating the wonderful cross-platform nature of our 'community'!  I've incorporated some of the comments made on FB into the chat summary as it really is the same conversation.

What is General English (GE)?
I think I may have been the only one in the conversation who wasn't sure what was meant by GE, even when I was told it was 'General English'.  It seems to be a term used in ELICOS for classes focused on English for General communication purposes, using a grammar-based syllabus, integrated skills, familiar topics, appeals to range of visa types and students.  @Penultimate_K mentioned that "It's what they do when they aren't doing IELTS" making me think that it is anything that isn't a specialised English class, that is English for academic, business, etc.

See the English Australia FAQs page for a more detailed explanation of ELCOS and GE.

How does writing fit into this picture?  What is the problem?

One of the problems seems to be the concept of 'general', as @jo_cummins put it "Often they don't like the whole concept of 'general' - which is why we call it 'IE' = intensive English."

The problem seems to be a mix of...

Learner needs and preferences:
GE students have different needs and expectations, and within a class these will differ.
Writing doesn't seem to fit in for some students depending on their needs/goals. Some students really can't see the point of improving their written English skills.

I find that many students don't like doing writing in class and would often rather just spend the whole lesson speaking and discussing, but they recognise that they need to work on writing and are quite motivated.

@Romi_el felt that the student’s disinterest might coms from the fact that GE writing covers a broad array of English topics and is often not seen as focused on specific topics? IELTS students on the other hand take it seriously perhaps due to the extra focused and limited styles of writing that IELTS students are required to perfect for the test? While GE students have no clear goal other than what they have in the course book (more on coursebooks below).
  • Writing may seem more formal: essay, reports etc and not everyday writing like emails, texts etc.
  • And in a class you'll have some who need to write reports at work & others that short informal texts is enough
  • Student preference for speaking 
  • Lots of obvious models for speaking English (in film, TV, music) fewer for writing
    Students who don't think they need writing skills in English - chefs, tradies, etc!
    @TomTesol recipes, job aps, cover letters...?
  • Plus the perception that time is being 'wasted' and that writing can be 'done at home' (also for teachers?)
Coursebooks and Teachers
I've grouped these together, as it seemed that the issues we're intertwined in most teachers' minds.

A few teachers felt that the coursebooks were part of the problem, in not having much writing focus or tagging writing on at end of unit as 'extension' or similar where it is easy to ignore.

Someone even suggested that a key problem with most GE coursebooks is often that NONE of the macro skills are addressed in a substantial way - something for a future #AusELT chat perhaps?

@SophiaKhan4 summed it up nicely with this tweet: "That's the issue with grammar-based coursebooks, the natural communicative purpose of a genre is lacking". (More on this later). For many teachers, writing doesn't really seem to fit in - greater emphasis on grammar and speaking. Even in a grammar-based curriculum, it seems to me that the grammar still has to be in a context, and isn't that where the writing fits in?  But @ElkySmith felt that for many teachers, it's where the speaking fits in ;-)

Often the tasks provided in coursebooks fail because the context can be non-Australian and if teacher just does them for the sake of time and often tends to be writing for reinforcement rather than any communicative purpose.
Many teachers and students seem to see writing as a 'passive' (silent) skill rather than a productive, communicative one, and/or that it is boring and should only be set as homework if at all. 
This silence could be a key: heads down work can sometimes be scary for teachers - they're not sure if they're being useful so prefer to get students talking! And also in GE, maybe a silent class is viewed as not good, while a communicative (noisy) class is great.

Crowded syllabus - more integration?
Perhaps the problem is that we're trying to fit too much in - into a crowded syllabus?  Is it unnecessarily crowded, or just not focussing on students' needs?  A well integrated syllabus: achieving communicative purposes with a range of skills; and covering a genre in all macroskills, might alleviate the problem.

Error correction and Feedback
There was a significant sub-theme running through the chat on handling correction of errors and feedback to students.
A big difference in motivation can be whether the teacher uses a correction key or corrects the work for them...students being put off writing because of the way it is often assessed (red ink, errors indicated)  (@Penultimate_K)
One thread concerned some form of peer or whole class correction. Since students seem to find errors in their peer's writing but not in their own, that could be a good place to start and this could be done as class activity, perhaps using @forstersensei's suggestion of a  'grass skirts' activity... and instead of Qs, put student errors for them to correct.

Some suggestions:
  • using different colour pens
  • using correction codes - students can see their progression (mistakes) and this can be useful
  • encouraging rewrites
  • talking through the text - either face-to-face or via screencasts
  • focussing on specific points when giving feedback - grammar point, structure or vocabulary, whatever you think they need
It would seem that teachers need a variety of approaches and flexibility is the key:
I try to negotiate a different error correction strategy with mine... @TomTesol
... use whatever key unlocks each student! @cioccas 
So... what are the solutions?

@Eslkazzyb felt we really do our students a disservice if we do not provide enough opportunity to write. Like spoken production, written production provides an important opportunity for students to notice the gaps in their language/skill base (Swain output hypothesis). It is possible to create communicative and fun opportunities for classroom writing - we just need to be creative.

Authentic and Relevant
No surprises that the chat participants felt that writing tasks we give our students need to be authentic, have a purpose and be relevant to their interests and needs.  For example, to address the problem with coursebooks text, taking the textbook ideas 'off the page' and make them more relevant to students' lives.
@ElkySmith Authenticity, as always, is the key - perhaps why social media might be more appealing to many Ss when writing?
There were suggestions that using social media could be a way to engage students in authentic tasks, but this came with a caution that it must still have a purpose which matches students' needs, and comment that it can be hard to get students using social media for writing practice outside class.   Another suggestion was that teachers should be looking at when students do write and utilising it.

@TomTesol shared this idea combining an authentic task with social media use:
Mine are blogging to tell me what grade they deserve for the class... persuasive essay... emerged in class
which others agreed was a lovely authentic task that is very relevant for students and has a genuine communicative purpose.

Some other ideas shared:
  • Writing for note taking is effective - Purpose is there!
  • I ask them to write, What I learned today, What I liked today, What I didn't like today (GE4's) to reflect 
  • Collaborative writing
Given our classes in Australia would usually have students from different backgrounds, there is the problem of making the writing tasks relevant to all.  For example, @NailahRokic posed the question of how to get students from different backgrounds to write about wars in exams?

Technology as key?
There were a lot of ideas for motivating students shared using technology: mobile, web-based and more.

Most teachers find that their students are more motivated when using tech:
  • In my experience, set ss task to write post on social media & they do it. Give them writing task on paper, many don't
  • Now doing online writing rather than paper-based. Students enjoy adding photos/images to compositions. Students post on Facebook and comment.
  • ... Facebook statuses, tweets, anything that they might actually use to help them see a purpose
  • We definitely deal more with the screen generation than the page generation
  • Yeah, this semester finally started DOING this stuff with mine -- magic! Started with Twitter, now we're doing much larger written texts, willingly...
Though I still have many students who prefer paper to technology, perhaps because I work more with migrants and refugees, and students of all ages, 18-88!

So, what tech?
  • The technology most students have and use: eg, texting/SMS on mobile phones
  • Email
  • Social media: Twitter, Facebook
  • Blogging
  • Discussion forums
Blogging is popular:
  • … blogging in general has to be one of the most motivating writing activities, no?
@SophiaKhan4 wanted to know what works, or if students see blogging as another hoop, like journals, that can fail if not set up or maintained well. And a few shared interesting examples:
@TomTesol pointed out that his blogging students were "...the same students that started 3 months ago unable to tweet accurately in English."  Prompting @ElkySmith to wonder "Will 'can tweet accurately in English' make it into the CEFR one day? :-)"
I suspect that those teachers participating in the #AusELT chat aren't the ones who need convincing.  If teachers are going to use tech tools and social media these in class then teachers are going to have to get up to speed by using it for themselves. 
  • More teachers will have to learn how to tweet then :-)
And @forstersensei shared this link on Integrating social media in writing 

During the chat, @trylingual posted some images to help us explore some common student complaints about writing in GE:

Yes, teacher. I really want to write another postcard/CV/complaint letter.

Chat participants could empathise with students on this one,  the general feeling that these are usually presented as isolated teacher-centred tasks or pre-determined writing activities with pre-chosen text type, rather than activity that emerges from needs during the lesson. And that they are usually too sterile and pre-planned to be motivating.  Unfortunately, teaching these text-types are sometimes pre-determined by a currculum we have to assess against, but there are ways of making them more relevant - a couple of examples:

I roll my eyes at the thought of having to teach the writing of complaints letters myself, but I did have a success once when I found a weevil in my lunch one day at work.  We turned it into an authentic task and got a real result!  From comments during the chat, I think this demonstrated that to make it authentic you have take it off the page and help students see the point.  Not sure that everyone is going to find a weevil at the appropriate time though.  :-)

And with what I thought was the quote of the night: "And let's not forget how much writing is often produced in a snarky exit evaluation…" (@Penultimate_K)

@TomTesol also shared a good authentic task for writing persuasive essays, that emerged in class : ... "... blogging to tell me what grade they deserve for the class"

Teacher, I don’t how to start.
Giving them a first line helps... 

What about 'Teacher, I don't know how to stop!'? :-)
   'quality not quantity'.... That's what i hammer in my Ss

And prompting what I think was @TESOLatMQ's first mention (of many) of modelling: "My life is devoted to spreading the benefits of modelling and deconstructing texts in ELT :-)) "

Teacher, writing is too hard for me 

Recognition of the vicious cycle of:  students don't like writing because it's difficult because they avoid it so they don't like it!

The feeling here was that students need good model texts, support, modelling, lots of practice, more modelling, and good feedback.  They also need to see that they are learning.

@NailahRokic also mentioned that some of her students didn't seem uninterested in writing, but she noticed how much they struggle not only with language but also in developing the topic itself. She believes that comes from the lack of reading and keeping up with the news.

“Can’t find the words he’s looking for… invents them.”
(Shared by @forstersensei)

MODELLING: The Teaching and Learning Cycle

A framework for modelling texts and supporting students in their writing 
(shared by @TESOLATMQ)

As @michaelegriffin and @TESOLatMQ reminded us, models don't have to be perfect models.   Models can be of all persuasions, so long as they’re making a point about text organisation and specific language features. Even "bad models" are good: students can find problems and ways to improve on them.

What is your fail safe writing task that always gets good writing from your students?
  • Newspaper personal ads. Use real ad costs. Nothing like $$$ to make you think about expanding/contracting the ad.
  • Students write a tweet, then a Facebook message, then a blog on same topic. Like opposite of 3-2-1 speaking activity.
  • A debate in class, then they have lots of ideas to start writing and can't say they don't have an opinion!
  • Think of two of your favourite characters from different books/films/shows and describe them meeting.
  • Students write a 'critical comment' after watching a video, foreign correspondent, TED, then try to get it published on the site.
  • Read biographies of famous people, then ask students to say what they are famous for in this class (the only one who…) .. then write their own biography.
  • Workshop different students' writing each week, help them improve, they love it
  • This one has worked a treat after an excursion: Writing a news report 

What are some common writing tasks that FAIL and how do you FIX them?
FAIL=do not motivate the students, FIX=adapt 

  • is often in theme or context.
  • tasks with a language focus rather than a communicative focus.
  • tasks with no models.
  • lack of preparation for sudents (pre writing) - their focus is on word limits etc
  • often the ones provided in coursebooks fail:
  •      when context is non-Australian
  •      if the teacher just does them for the sake of time and/or not enthusiastic about task
  •      if writing for reinforcement rather than any communicative purpose
FIXes (for many of the above):
  • make more relevant tasks; or make the task more relevant
  • personalising as much as possible to the students in front of you.
  • you write while they write. You produce the model andthey can see how close theirs matches yours.

What are the key ingredients in a GE class to motivate students to write:

Authenticity was mentioned again - both authentic purpose and authentic audience. 
What is an authentic audience?
  • A responsive one.  
  • Someone who is actually going to read the text and be interested in it (vs T who's just going to cover it in red ink!)
  • Someone who needs to read it in English for a communicative purpose
  • @jo_cummins shared her recent blog post on the importance of audience for writing:
    Is anybody out there? The importance of audience for student writing
Other ingredients:
  • Students should believe what they are doing is useful/something they want to write
  • Personal purpose, meeting student needs
  • Validity
  • Modelling, using model texts, 
  • Scaffolding
  • Constructive feedback
  • Communicative purpose

And we finished the chat with these words of wisdom:

What are your most motivating words to get GE students writing?
  • Write the kind of thing you would like to read.
  • Writing helps improve your speaking, grammar, vocabulary and reading!
  • We're born to speak and listen, not to read and write - it doesn't come naturally, even in L1 - it takes time and practice!

Using augmented-reality-based mobile learning material in EFL English composition: An exploratory case study by Pei-Hsun Emma Liu and Ming-Kuan Tsai in British Journal of Educational Technology  Vol 44 No 1 2013

Grass skirts revision race on British Council/BBC Teaching English site (recommended by @forstersensei)

Check out writing worksheets if you need ideas and activities. (recommended by @forstersensei)

Can Web 2.0 technology assist collegestudents in learning English writing? Integrating Facebook and peer assessment with blended learning by Ru-Chu Shih in Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2011, 27(Special issue, 5), 829-845. (recommended by @forstersensei)

A framework for modelling texts andsupporting students in their writing (shared by @TESOLatMQ)

Creativities: Creative writing activities and ideas for the EFL/ESL classroom
@jo_cummins' blog (recommended by @SophiaKhan4)
Including her recent blog post on the importance of audience for writing:
Is anybody out there? The importance of audience for student writing

Developing writing skills: a news report on British Council/BBC Teaching English site
(recommended by @cioccas)

Thanks to @trylingual for excellent moderation of the chat and the terrific images.
Check out if you want to make your own motivational posters for your GE writers.

For more (and there is more!) and for sources of quotes, see the Transcript of #AusELT chat on Motivating GE students to Write and the brief discussion on the #AusELT Facebook group (scroll down to May 27 for this thread).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Not Tech for Tech's Sake. Not an Experiment.

I've just read a very interesting post on Kevin Stein (@kevchanwow)'s blog The Other Things Matter entitled Tech for Tech's Sake, which got me reflecting on a similar recent experience.

This quote from Kevin's blog post will put this into some context:
Lately there have been a number of presentations at conferences and blog posts about how technology is a tool, how it should meet the needs of the students and enhance what happens in the classroom.  Most people seem to be of the opinion that tech for techs sake isn’t very useful.  But what if you really have no idea how students are going to react to a new web site or novels ways to explore English with their smart-phones until you give them the space to try it out in class? 
Kevin's post recounts his use of Quizlet for vocabulary development.  In my case, I wanted to provide more opportunities for individual speaking practice, and at the same time get students used to hearing themselves and to start to self-evaluate and self-correct.

When I first introduced VoiceThread (VT) to my beginner-elementary students I was wondering if it was worth it.  I had spent a long time setting up a VT in advance of the lesson, then, in the first lesson I had a similar experience to Kevin with setting up accounts taking up most of the allocated computer lab time.  Fortunately, some students had got in quickly and easily and helped me help others.  By the end of the lesson, every student had successfully recorded something, but most of that first session had seemed to be just me running around helping them get into VT - it didn't feel much like a language lesson.  Though in retrospect I realise there was an awful lot of authentic communication occurring.

In the second session on VT (a week later), we had a few students who had forgotten their password, or which email address they had used, so I spent a bit of time patiently showing them how to get into their accounts or recover their passwords.  But this time a lot more students got in quickly and there were many creative responses to the photos and questions I had posted in the new VT.

We still had a few problems in session 3, but it was much smoother, and by the 4th week it almost went without a hitch and nearly all the time was spent on recording, listening and commenting.  I was able to login myself during these lessons and respond in real time to the students' recordings and throw out further prompts to encourage more input.  In week 3 the students used VT to practice for their assessments and in week 4 I asked them to comment on VT about how useful they had found it for their speaking practice.  The responses were all positive, and some elaborated on how they felt it had helped them. So I felt it had all been worthwhile(*).

My only disappointments were that I didn't continue with this group, so couldn't extend this into what I had planned next, which was to have them create their own VTs; and that only a couple of students ever accessed it out of class time, though a few had downloaded the app to their smartphones or tablets.

In a way, this could have been viewed as 'tech for tech's sake'.  I certainly have the reputation at my college of experimenting with a lot of different tech tools.  While I sometimes set out unsure if an idea will work, I never feel like I'm using my students as guinea pigs, or that I'm using the tech just for the sake of it, or just for fun.  I'm usually not the earliest adopter (well, perhaps I am at my college, but I'm following in the footsteps of many adventurous teachers from around the world), but instead I carefully research and consider each new tech tool I use, watch what others are doing with it, and develop some understanding of how it supports the learners in particular tasks, in learning specific skills.  Sometimes I shelve ideas for a long time until I see the right opportunity, an ideal task, activity, theme, or group of learners suited to that idea for that tech tool.

Harking back to Kevin's blog post which inspired this post, in my 'experiment' with VoiceThread, tech did enhance what happens in class and also complemented my goals.  Once we got past the signing on issues, it also engaged the learners and they could see the benefits for their language development.  They didn't see it as tech for tech's sake and, for some of them at least, (this use of) tech did mean learning.

(*) PS: It wouldn't have been worthwhile for a one-off session - we achieved very little in that first computer lab session!

Monday, March 11, 2013

CamTESOL 2013: Sponsorship for Cambodian provincial teachers

 When my colleague Margaret had registered for CamTESOL 2010 (see more here about how I came to hear about CamTESOL and present myself!), she heard about the sponsorship for Cambodian provincial teachers.  She and I did a fundraising campaign at work and collected donations from our colleagues to sponsor 5 teachers and I also asked our local professional association ATESOL ACT to sponsor 5 more teachers.  After attending CamTESOL Margaret reported back how meaningful that sponsorship had been, enabling so many provincial teachers in Cambodia to attend the conference.  

As soon as I was accepted for CamTESOL 2013, I was back on the fundraising bandwagon again!  We managed to raise enough money at the ATESOL ACT annual dinner (matched $-for-$ from association funds) to sponsor 8 teachers.  My colleagues in CIT Vocational College sponsored another 5 teachers.

Before I left, my institution's media and marketing area got wind of these efforts and interviewed me for our newsletter: From social media to the classroom. It was terrific to have our efforts recognised and get more promotion for the sponsorship, it will help next year!

I was very proud to see the direct results of our small contributions in the participation of the many (458 in all) enthusiastic teachers who were helped to attend through this magnificent program!  It was also lovely to see my institution's and professional association's names beamed up on screens at the major venues and in the conference handbook, and on the website.

I urge you to consider sponsoring teachers to attend the next CamTESOL Conference, and the one after that, and...


This is one of 3 posts I've done on my CamTESOL 2013 experience.  Also read about:

CamTESOL 2013: Spreading the PLN message to Cambodian teachers

I can't remember when I first heard about CamTESOL, but I remember telling another teacher at work about it and encouraging her to attend. Margaret immediately submitted a proposal and had her workshop accepted - she presented at CamTESOL 2010 on a project she was involved in, on teaching English in the workplace in Australia.  On her return, Margaret told me how wonderful the conference was, and I've been keen to attend ever since.

Ever since then I've been trying to think of a workshop that I could conduct that would be useful, particularly for teachers in Cambodia.  I had an idea about wanting to tell teachers about how they could join the amazing global networks of English Language teachers who are using social media, and accessing online professional development (PD).  One of my Cambodian friends works with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (I met him when I did some volunteer work with them back in 2001) and I talked to him about my ideas, but we were both unsure of whether the infrastructure was there to enable teachers to connect.

In recent years I had noticed how much more my Cambodian friends have been using Facebook to keep in contact and share news. Then, when I was visiting my friends' home town in Kandal Province last year, I found that I was getting a roaming signal and could access the Internet there in their village.  My friends were posting to Facebook from the village and electricity was on the way!  Then, in September, I chatted on Skype with their extended family from back home in Australia.  With such rapid development, I felt the time was right!

I contacted one of the valued members of my personal learning networks, Andrea Wade who lives and works in Vietnam, and asked if she'd be interested in doing a workshop at CamTESOL with me.  She didn't hesitate for a second!  We both figured we were an excellent example of learning and sharing with teachers across the world!

For our workshop we had a very diverse and enthusiastic audience, and we got a lot of positive feedback and comments after our talk.  One person commented that it was our enthusiasm for what being connected globally meant to us that was the most meaningful aspect of our talk - exactly what we were hoping to convey!

But we had hoped to have a lot more Cambodian teachers at our talk, as we had particularly wanted to get the message out to them, as we felt they had the most to benefit by connecting with us and the world.  Perhaps it would have been better if we had been included on the 'Professional Development' stream, rather than the 'Technology' stream?  We had listed both on our submission, but on reflection perhaps we should have been more specific.   Fortunately we had many opportunities during the conference to talk to other teachers about our workshop, so were able to spread the word widely.  Andrea did a wonderful job with this, giving out our handouts to everyone she spoke to.

Andrea has already posted on the blog about our workshop - My first presentation at an international TESOL conference!  I'm not sure I can add much to her wonderful report so I'd encourage you to read her post for the full story!  I've embedded her links to our slides and handout below as well for maximum exposure!  I'd like to reiterate her thanks to Mike Griffin (@michaelegriffin) for his help with our workshop.  Mike was very gracious in agreeing to help us with our slides and it was terrific to have another #ELTchat fan at our workshop to help get our message across.
#ELTchat fans @worldteacher @michaelegriffin & @cioccas at #CamTESOL 2013

It was a very positive experience and I hope we do get more teachers connecting with us and, through us, to the global networks we find so valuable.  The idea is to support teachers in getting started, then helping them find their own way and develop their own personal learning networks.  We tried to make this as simple as possible, but it's difficult when there is so much out there, so we've also set up an Edmodo group to help us mentor teachers there as well.

Our handout - please print and share!

Our slides:

This is one of 3 posts I've done on my CamTESOL 2013 experience.  Also read about:

CamTESOL 2013: A fabulous Conference!

I returned from CamTESOL 2013 energised and with lots of new ideas and share with my colleagues and to try out in my classroom.

It was a fantastic conference, easily the best I’ve been to.  The organisation of the conference was impeccable, and the young Cambodian volunteers were exceptional.  The enthusiasm of the Cambodian teacher delegates was infectious.  I felt very proud to have been able to help some of them attend the conference through organising sponsorship (read more here).  I met up with a few teachers I only knew from social media or by reputation and have made many new contacts and friends. I loved the practical nature of most of the conference presentations, and I hope that never changes.  The whole CamTESOL experience was incredible!

The quality of the presentations was very high, and it was the energy and enthusiasm of the presenters that made it all special.  There were a few research-type papers, but I tried to focus on the practical ones and they didn't disappoint.  Here are brief details and the key messages I took from those I attended:

The Language Educator and Globalisation: How do we best prepare our learners?
Richmond Stroupe
For me, the main message from Richmond's talk was "How do we empower our students so that they can make choices about their future?".  Some of his suggestions:
  • ELTs teaching not just English, but also teaching other workplace skills. 
  • Teach employability skills, critical analysis, communicative proficiency, intercultural communication competence
  • Integrated language skills - in teaching AND assessment
Making feedback effective in a presentation class
Debra Jones
Debra had presented on using Feed-forward (apply old feedback to a new task) in writing at a previous CamTESOL and here she described how she applied it to providing feedback on presentation skills
  • Helps Ss to learn to self-assess and self-adjust
  • Active learning - active participants
  • Two-way communication between S & T - cyclical / loop
  • Found Ss wrote fairly constructive FB on peer evaluations and valued this FB
  • Not many problems with negative feedback but did need training, uses models, etc.
[Debra has since had her paper published: Jones, D. (2013). Making Feedback Effective in a Presentation Skills Class. English Teaching in China, Issue 2.]
A practical and empowering approach to pronunciation teaching: How to raise student self- awareness of their pronunciation and foster learner autonomy
Deirdre Berry & Chrisoula Simos
Another approach to developing learner autonomy, this time in pronunciation skills:
  • Teacher assessment discussed with S
  • Student given guidance for self- assessment & self-assessment worksheet and; encouraged to set goals 
Teaching writing: The effect of mind- mapping technique on students’ writing skill
Nunung Nuraeni Supendi, Tri Wintolo Apoko & Gunawan Tedjo
Interesting presentation on how mind mapping can improve critical thinking through linking & categorising of concepts:
  • Links background knowledge of text with linguistic aspects 
  • The reading text provides the background knowledge 
  • Sounds like a variation on dictogloss, using reading texts & mind maps instead of listening and; dictation.
Extended reading in a multi-level classroom: Empowering students of all levels to enjoy reading in English 
Julia Mitchell
Lively workshop on an extensive reading program - the how and the why:
  •    Attention on meaning not language
  •    Goal is to develop reading ability to the point of being able to enjoy it
  •    Develop good habits, build Vocab, encourage Ss to like reading
  •    Flexibility by level - Ss read at own level and at own pace
  •    Ss choose what they want to read - increases interest and; motivation
  •    Promotes learner autonomy
Collaborative learning and Web 2.0 in a speaking and listening EFL classr oom: Using free video screen capture software and PowerPoint to create and
Daniel Ferreira 
On teachers creating space or activities to create community, allow Ss to express creativity and develop an L2 self-identity.  Not so much about the technology as it seems from the title, but some very interesting ideas using Blogging and Screencasting to provide opportunities for creativity and peer feedback.
Becoming a state school English teacher in Cambodia: Teacher trainees report on their experiences
Sareun Pang, Sokveasna Srey & YUS
A vibrant, personal and motivating presentation where three young trainee teachers shared their motivation for becoming teachers, and their experience in college and their practicums.
Purposeful Writing
Ezmat Azizi
Described a group project to write a newsletter in a participatory (vs acquisition) approach; Getting accepted in another life world
  • Learning as a community endeavour
  • Students aim for Originality, Creativity & Teamwork
  • Students found it difficult but interesting; 73% preferred the group work; Felt they expressed themselves well; and found it useful for further study & work
A Bad Reading Lesson
Michael Griffin
Mike led us through a role play of a bad reading lesson, which helped us focus on what was wrong and how to do it better.
Messages included these 'don'ts':
  • A text with a LOT of unknown words (where circling unknown words only added to anxiety)
  • Reading without purpose
  • Reading aloud before Ss have had time to read alone and try to understand  
  • Countdown timing
  • Intimidating teacher
Teaching grammar through songs: A way to motivate students in grammar classes
Do Thi Thu Hue, Nha Trang College, Vietnam
Highly practical workshop clearly demonstrating the benefits of teaching grammar through songs, and providing us with lots of ideas for songs and activities.  Her procedure was to treat it as a listening lesson with Pre-listening, While-listening and Post-listening activities focussing on the relevant grammar point.
Increasing Teacher Talk Time? : Enhancing TESOL professional learning communities using social media and other online tools
Fiona Wiebusch, RMIT Vietnam
Not as 'back to the future' as it sounds, but rather Fiona's message was to: Decrease TTT inside the classroom and  Increase TTT outside the classroom - primarily through using social media to increase talk between teachers.  Good teachers are constant learners and this enabled learning about your profession within your profession 
The challenge presented was a desire to improve as a professional teacher VS Time available to participate in professional learning.  The opportunity social media provides is more talk, more connected, in less time.  I'll be keeping in touch with Fiona and following RMIT Professional Learning (English Programs) on Facebook
Using songs to teach English sounds
Thu Ha Cao Thi Hong & Thu Hoang Thi Kim, Vietnam
This fun, engaging, loud, and physical workshop introduced 5 activities for using songs for teaching sounds.  The biggest crowd I saw at any session and everyone singing and dancing!
The iPad as the primary tool in the language classroom
Guy-Luc Achille Levesque
  • Scan textbooks to iPad - with publisher permission
  • Use Dropbox for textbooks and audio files to use in class
  • Shared some favourite apps: SocrativeGradeBook Pro; Slideshark
What every EFL teacher should know 
Paul Nation
Inspiring keynote with many simple, clear, practical messages and teaching tips  I recommend you download his FREE book What Should Every ESL Teacher Know from

The day before the conference I went on a tour of Don Bosco Vocational School, a training college for young people from the poorest families.  It was a privilege to be invited to visit their classes and hear about their programs in many trades areas.  It was also lovely to catch up with their English teacher at the conference.  We also attended a welcoming cocktail party for presenters and a gala dinner - both fabulous with very few speeches ;-)   

All in all it was a terrific experience where I learnt lots, made lots of new friend and contacts, and have many good memories.

This is one of 3 posts I've done on my CamTESOL 2013 experience.  Also read about: