This article was kindly contributed by Jane Tardo. Jane completed her Trinity Diploma in TESOL at Oxford TEFL this year and she is now a tutor for young learners in Prague.
ILC IH Brno Teacher Training Centre
Saturday, October 12th 2013
Having recently completed the Trinity Diploma in TESOL exams, I was quite excited to continue my professional development by attending my first conference through the sponsorship of Oxford TEFL Prague. On October 12th 2013, I traveled to Brno for The LEVELS Conference at ILC IH. The theme of the conference was mixed ability and differentiation for young learners and adults.
The best workshop I attended was ‘Support and challenges at the secondary level’ by Anette Igel because it was the most interactive. Anette Igel presented many hands on activities which challenged the attendees to think outside the box when working with course books. She also introduced us to several ways of motivating our learners, such as, personalization, open-ended and task variation. We then had a chance to practice and develop these ideas by brainstorming in groups how to bring alive some of the more mundane (e.g. describe the picture, chapter revisions, etc.) tasks commonly found in coursebooks.
The best new activity that I learned was introduced and demonstrated in ‘Drilling is not dead’ by Eva Trnakova. In this version of ‘Reversi,’ the target language is written on one side of a folded piece of paper with its equivalent on the other. For example, if the target language is ‘extreme adjectives,’ then the pieces would look like this:
Each piece is cut on the thick black line, folded in half and lined up in a row. One learner must then look at the language on the top and say what is on the other side, the learner continues up the row and flips the cards if the correct answer is given. If the learner gives an incorrect answer or comes to a card that they do not know then they flip the card and the next learner begins again from the beginning with the goal of getting to the end of the row. Some other ways to use this activity that I’ve thought of would be for practicing antonyms and similes, FCE keyword transformations, or for learning general vocabulary with young learners (picture on one side, the word on the other).
The most relevant workshop for Oxford TEFL was ‘Moving off the intermediate plateau.’ In this expertly delivered presentation, Daniela Clarke discussed the problems of the intermediate plateau and the ways we can assist learners into advanced levels. She suggested that the main problem is that intermediates are speaking too formally and writing too informally. Learners also rely too much on top-down processing rather than getting at the real details of listening and reading activities. To counteract this, she advised that we could try more authentic materials such as those found in Global. We should also push learners to make use of chunked language rather than translating ideas from L1 into L2. Additionally, error correction must be heavy handed in order to show the learners that they still have areas to improve in and to counteract fossilization. She recommended that recast error correction is not the best method, but that notifying the learner that an error was made and then allowing self-correction would be better suited. The presentation was ended with the advice that we should be pushing, demanding, and challenging the learners to express themselves in more and greater detail.
–Jane Tardo, 2013