Friday, October 28, 2016

My reflections about the 2106 IATEFL Poland conference

Conference Notes
IATEFL Poland conference, 16-18 September 2016, Szczecin

A good conference is like strenuous exercise: it makes you stretch. However, conference goers should keep in mind many factors when choosing presentations: stretching out of their comfort zone, relevance, and professional development. The talks and workshops at IATEFL Poland offered a broad, well-balanced selection. I chose Business English and professional development slots, but I jumped out of my zone, too.

Twenty seconds is all a teacher of 4-year-olds gets to transition from one activity to the next, otherwise the little learners scatter like autumn leaves. I watched “Musical Babies,” a live English lesson demonstration with pre-schoolers. Anna Rattenbury changed activities with speed and skill — she was supremely organized. According to one study, most teachers who attend conferences become more aware of developments in ELT contexts other than their own. True enough for me: I learned how cleverly YL teachers plan their lessons.

Back in Business English, I found one thing in common with Mandy Welfare — we both love teaching lower level business people, and we were the only ones in her session who felt this way! The key points are allowing as much speaking as possible, and motivating with bite-sized successes. Later I heard Evan Frendo provide easy ways to contruct discrete items (multiple choice and gapfills) — finally! I’ve always wondered how it’s done, and now I can hardly wait to do it myself.

Then came loads of fun with Anna Podlewska, who teaches medical students, but her games could easily be adapted to other ESP areas. For example, there was a derivative of musical chairs, based on the teacher reading out true or false statements about diseases — very funny, and the subject matter could easily be finance, marketing, etc. Another hilarious game was a dialog cut into strips and distributed to individuals in the class, who called out the statements on their strip one by one, while the others strove to find the appropriate reply.

Professional development is still exciting, even if not the newest star in the sky. I was reminded by Marjorie Rosenberg to wake up my blog and make it work for me. Also, Magda Zawadzka provided a smorgasbord of tips and tricks that ranged between paper-and-scissors preparation and a few clicks for online resources. These may not be new ideas, but small changes make a teacher more professional, too.

In his Sunday morning plenary, Jamie Keddie extended and contracted his leg asking, “What am I doing?” Answer: “Szeczin!” (stretching). At the 2016 IATEFL Poland conference, I really stretched out, too. No doubt I’ll do the same next year in Bielsko-Biata.

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