The ABC of ELT

How I’m Planning My IATEFL Poland Talk This Year

Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver a session at IATEFL Poland in Szczecin. It was a great development opportunity that my employer helped pay for the travel. So when I saw there was an opportunity to speak again this year, I leaped at the opportunity. There was only one issue…I didn’t have a talk to give.

Last year I resurrected a talk I had given on teaching Dyslexic students. I adapted parts of it based on new information I had obtained and considered how activities could be improved but it was 85% the same talk. This year I needed (or wanted) to talk about something new, so here is an insight into my planning process and some cool tools I’ve used to plan.

Getting the idea

My idea for this year’s talk came from a combination of different areas of interest and ideas I’ve come across before. As such I’ve chosen “Using visual notetaking or “sketchnoting” with young learners”. I was intending to use this topic for my school development plan action research project last year but in the end I wanted more time to experiment and investigate and a “safer” option. After noticing a fellow teacher using something similar I decided to jump on it.

As such, I had a pretty firm idea of what I wanted to do fo my talk, I just made sure that it fit into a talk proposal and made it a bit more specific (limiting to a young learners context) so that I’d be more focused.


I already had a lot of latent ideas going round my head at this stage and I knew that I wanted it to be very practical. Still I needed to pull some proper sources and content together. Plus I wanted some further inspiration. As such I started a mind map and chucked in all the big picture data that I had.

  • The Topic
  • activities to do
  • why sketchnoting is important or useful
  • background research
  • the history of Sketchnoting
  • websites to find more information

I did this using an app called MindNode on iOS (there is a mac app too but I only used my iPad for this) which I picked up on the App Store while it was discounted years ago.

Mind map from MindNode
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At this point I decided to buy a couple of books around the topic and dig in deeper making paper notes in my notebook (yup, they were sketchnotes) and then transferring those ideas across to the mindmap. I also reached out to a couple of people in the sketchnote community for their insights and spoke to my academic supervisor for some of his insights.

Getting the layout

Next I needed a framework for my talk. I thought that it might be best to use the framework I had come across from development sessions at a summer school I had taught at.

The start would introduce an idea or a higher level concept. Then we went into some activities that could be used in classrooms tomorrow. As such I wanted to demonstrate some activities that teachers could quickly adapt to different topics, grammar items and so on after dealing with the what and why questions.

I then sketched a 60 minute block of time on a piece of paper and blocked out how much time I’d need for each section and where.

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However, I had to redraw this sketch as I realised I’d probably need to allow time for people to turn up a bit late and questions at the end (so there was a buffer as well).

More than a session?

At this point I started to think about the handout I wanted to give people with further resources, ideas and so on. I was planning on making a handout, and started to sketch one out (so it would be a sketchnote handout). But I realised that It would be great if the session turned into a guided sketchnote activity. Basically not only would there be activities in the session that looked at how sketchnoting could be applied, but the whole session would also be an activity in sketchnoting.

As such I thought it would be good to not have a handout to give people but to try something different. I set up a website called with an email sign up page. This would then start a chain of 6 different emails over several weeks which would contain my notes from the session, and links to a selection of different resources that people might find interesting. As long as no more than 1000 people sign up, it’s free.


Now I started to assemble my talk in Keynote on the iPad using the dividers that I had come up with in my draft layout. During this time I started to add titles and main speaking points. Unfortunately I have to use some official slides which conform to our brand guidelines. This proved problematic as I was trying to prepare my slides…but I couldn’t easily import the theme for the slides so I had to remake my presentation once I finally received our official slides theme.

I also wanted to include some hand drawn icons and images to represent activities on the slides. I tried a couple of different apps but I settled on using Concepts, a vector based app as this meant I could zoom in and then export as a larger image into the slide before adjusting based on how large they needed to be.

Capture big ideas in the moment sketchnote icon
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Practice and video

I find it really hard to guess timings for talks especially when it is my first time presenting on a topic. It could be that an activity will take five minutes, or maybe it will take 10. I may quickly explain an idea and move on, or stick on a point for a long time. Seeing as I don’t like sticking to a script but instead knowing a topic inside out and just speaking with guiding points, practicing is the only way to get good.

But getting feedback is a much greater help than practicing with only my gut as a judge. As such I’ve been recording myself explain different sections of the talk. My plan is to also put these videos online afterwards and then people who can’t attend the talk, can get a sample of it. In fact if you go to this special page at Sketchnote Classroom, I’ll know to send you the videos once they are ready.


Well that’s where I am now, practicing some more and getting ready for IATEFL which is only a week away. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a reduced workload recently which has helped me prepare but the nerves are certainly building.

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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