The ABC of ELT

What I learnt at IATEFL Poland 2016 in Szczecin

Bratislava bridge

For readers who don’t speak Polish, your challenge is to say the place name in the title. Back to the post.

I went to my first IATEFL event in Szczecin, Poland last week. I had a great time getting to know some colleagues from a different city, meeting some new people, attending talks and showing off some dance moves (let’s not dwell on that last point). So I thought I’d share some things I learnt from attending my first IATEFL event.

It’s really commercial

I was shocked by this but I in hindsight I probably shouldn’t have been. I wasn’t surprised by all the books/games stands (pro tip, look at the games and think how could you turn it into an activity in a classroom. Then you don’t have to buy it but can use the idea). I wasn’t particularly surprised by the speakers who were brought by publishing companies. What did surprise me were the talks whose only purpose was to promote something…and so had to constantly bring up that product (to the detriment of any kind of point).

Some talks are better than others

Linked to that previous point, some talks were much better than others. It’s tough presenting and although some aspects are very similar to teaching, trying to approach a session to 300+ teachers as a lesson…doesn’t really work.

If you are presenting, have 5 backup plans

I had about three backup plans and even brought my own cables. I assumed seeing as I could use this equipment at schools in Krakow (not rich school either) it should be fine…it wasn’t. After a lot of sweating I bundled my way through.

You don’t have to fill your time with events

By the end of the first day my mind was frazzled from all the sessions I’d been in (getting up at 3.00am didn’t help either). I found it hard to make the most of the last session I went to. The next day I noticed a little break in the schedule for some Polish language sessions (my Polish isn’t that good yet) so I went for a walk, had a coffee and chatted with some people.

Make sure you find out where the coffee is

Linked with that last point, coffee…it’s kind of a big deal.

Often, if a word has several meanings, they will “grammar” differently

This was something Hugh Dellar mentioned in his talk. He used the example of cause. So for example “The cause of world war two was…” [here cause takes the definite article and is followed by of] “it’s a good cause” [here it takes the indefinite article and usually comes at the end of the sentence]. It was something which I’ve probably heard before but still surprised me. It could be useful for helping students prepare either for recognition or more likely, production of language.

In extended speakings, you can start with one small section

This was an idea from Paul Dummett’s talk. He pointed out that if you are preparing students for some extended speaking (2 minutes +) you can always let them just work on the beginning, end, or a single slide. That’s a helpful way to build students up for extended speaking practice rather than jumping in at the deep end.

“The more you use a piece of material, the more possibilities you see.”

This was a quote from Jamie Keddie which really resonated with me. I could certainly think of a couple of authentic materials where I had seen that happen and used in very different ways over time.

Use full sentences on your flashcards

This was from a sessions by Ola Komada she suggested that instead of drilling a single word on a flash card, you should drill a sentence (with the target vocabulary from the item). That way you are giving your students more language to use and produce.

Zaption is pretty cool

Zaption is a tool where you can make quizzes based off videos. You can add questions so that students don’t passively watch but are always active. [Kahoot can do something similar]

Visual Inputs can be negative for Dyslexic students

This really surprised me as it wasn’t part of my personal experience, but for some Dyslexic students (in particular those with ADHD?) visual prompts can be too distracting and so subtract from taking in information and make it harder to concentrate.

Most social media activity is self promotion

Evan Frendo’s talk made most of us on social media realise just how much of social media is about giving off a good impression and trying to promote ourselves. It was really interesting how formulaic some of these tweets/facebook posts were and I’m sure I’ve sent some that were very similar.

“Lovely to finally meet [name of ELT person] she/he are just as lovely in real life as online.” (for example).

Sketchnoting is interesting

I tried sketchnoting some of the talks at this conference as I believed it should play to my strengths. In the end I often ended up making fancier hand sketch slides which are available online! I’m sure that writing and drawing helped me remember more, and I would like to review my notes and the slides so that I could make more polished sketchnotes from the talks.


I’m sure there is a lot more I could have shared but this is getting on so I’ll stop there.

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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