On Friday, I had the rare pleasure of giving a workshop at an ELT event within walking distance of my home in Bristol. There’s been a lot of chat amongst ELT authors, presenters and trainers recently about whether we should be jetting around the world to give talks and workshops at ELT conferences. Are all those carbon emissions really justified? Can’t we use technology more to share ideas without the need to travel? Wouldn’t it be better to encourage more local speakers and trainers? To be honest, I don’t fly for work nearly as much as some of my colleagues. Last year, I only flew to one conference in Malta and this year so far, I’ve had one trip to Spain. Nevertheless, it’s something I’m conscious of and I have decided not to go to a couple of overseas conferences this year, in part, to avoid flying. So, it was very nice to be able to walk to this one and keep my #eltfootprint down.
The event itself was organized by Living Learning English, a Bristol-based organization who arrange home tuition courses for students who come to stay with teachers across the UK. Their annual teachers’ conference is an opportunity for their teachers to get toegther, to network and to enjoy some CPD. They had a day of talks and workshops including one that I sat in on from Nik Peachey talking about the digital classroom and very bravely getting a roomful of teachers with very varied levels of tech confidence to log on to the Backchannel Chat site to see how it can be used for sharing digital materials with students. After a bit of initial reluctance and a few minutes of chaos while everyone tried to get logged onto the WiFi and then find the website, almost everyone got in and I think, took away lots of ideas for using the digital materials that Nik shared.
In my own session, I was talking (again) about teaching vocabulary beyond intermediate level. It’s a topic I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about lately and the deeper I get into it, the more I realize that we need to differentiate the way we deal with vocabulary (and probably other aspects of language too) at different stages in a learner’s development. I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the one-size-fits-all approach to teaching vocab that I come across again and again, especially in coursebooks which adopt a format that works for pre-int and intermediate but then try to squeeze more advanced levels onto the page in the same way. But that’s a debate for another day … for the moment, I was just happy to share a few ideas with teachers for things they can do to help their learners push their vocab past the intermediate hump.
Thanks to LLE for inviting me to and all the teachers who came along.