I am delighted to present you with the first interview for 2016, with one of my favourite educators ever, James Taylor!
Today’s guest is an invaluable ELT colleague and friend: an English teacher, blogger, co-founder and former President of BELTA Belgium, TEFL Commute podcast co-producer, iTDi mentor, ELTChat moderator, conference and webinar speaker. He is very active on social media and we all learn such a great deal from him on a daily basis.
James joined me from Brasília, where he now lives.
Enjoy this amazing interview and listen to James talk about everything from ELT, life experiences and travelling around the world as a teacher, podcasts, books, music and more!
A huge thank you, James!
(And thank you, James for coming up with the brilliant post title!)
And after the excitement of Day One…Day Two came along for all of us to learn, connect and have fun!
I started my day with Mike Harrison’s super session Before Words: Ideas for Using Images and Sound in the Classroom. It was the first time I had attended Mike’s session and I loved it! I got so many ideas about what you can do with pictures and sound effects in class. We even did a visual poem. I teamed up with Deniz Atesok, a great educator from Turkey in the activities that Mike showed us and we came up with some great ideas! I will definitely be using his ideas with my students – and I will definitely be attending more of his sessions in the future. You can find a plethora of ideas on his great blog! A big thank you to Mike!
Right after Mike – the drama specialist and enthusiastic presenter (and very good friend – I am so happy to know her!) Anna Musielak! Ania’s presentation was called Break the Ice with Drama. I had seen Ania last year as well and I could not wait to attend her session this year either!
Ania presented so many ideas, you definitely have to catch her at a conference – her enthusiasm is amazing and so are her ideas, which work with all ages. We took part in many activities and could see in practice how great these ideas are. I loved how Ania’s ideas made everyone so enthusiastic, lots of people volunteered to take part in the activities. Lots and lots of ideas. Ania is also star guest blogger on many blogs, including mine. Her posts are definitely worth reading! Thanks so much, Ania!
After our lunch break, it was time to see Cecilia Lemos in action in her session, Ideas for Improving Studentsʼ Writing Skills: My Experience. Ceci gave us amazing ideas of how to integrate writing actively in our classes – a skill that has been often disliked by students for the reason that (we have all heard it and Ceci pointed it out as well) they have nothing to write. She introduced us to some nice tips for writing, such as motivating the students into writing the essay paragraph by paragraph wothout even realising it, and then putting them all together to make their very own writing piece – and prove to themselves that they can write! I also like how Ceci told us how she motivates her kids to read – they all read the same book, which she has chosen carefully to be apporopriate for all tastes and for both genders. She has also done a webinar on the same topic which you can see, along with other super posts, on her blog.
Right after, it was time for the one and only Luke Meddings and his plenary Dogme and the City.
I really liked how Luke paralleled language learning and teaching and exploring the city of Paris. It was a really great pleasure to listen to Luke and talk to him afterwards – we also enjoyed his Greta Garbo impersonation!
Thanks for a great plenary, Luke! Truly enlightening and I look forward to attending more talks from Luke in the future.
Then it was time for Marisa Constantinidis – her session was The Reading Challenge: Motivation & creativity in reading lessons. Lots of educators heistate to use reading texts in their classes because they think the students may get bored. Marisa showed us so many ways to utilise texts in class successfuly, and get lots of things from them! She weaved reading texts into so many activities and extended them to speaking as well. I loved Marisa’s ways of motivating students to read – it counts to a great extent on how teachers present a reading text for the students to approach it! A great presentation form a wonderful person and educator! Read Marisa’s excellent blog for more great ideas – I am giving a link to her very imimportant challenge for people with disabilities, which she pointed out in Paris as well and I believe is a very important issue for all educators to keep in mind.
Right after Marisa, the last session of the day I attended was Ceri Jones’s, You’ve Got Mail. She gave us very interesting ideas on how to use e-mail in class, as a means of communication with our students (letting them know what has happened in case of absence, for instance, but also as an exchange of language between the teacher and students). Ceri and her students did an excellent job in extending their linguistic abiltites and improving significantly in writing – something I found very interesting, as I communicate a lot with my students via e-mail, almost on a daily basis. I am definitely taking a lot of ideas from Ceri’s session! Read her super blog Close Up – great work there!
Then we had the Open Mic Night, which was a huge success and so much fun! Lots of singing, juggling, poetry reading – you name it : )
Last year was the first time I attended TESOL France – it was a huge success from many aspects. First of all, the plenaries, workshops and talks were all fantastic and I learned so much. I met a lot of people I had only been interacting with online on Twitter and learned what the face-to-face meetings are really like: a lot of squealing, hugging and “Oh wow! It´s really you!!!!” among ourselves.
This year, I decided to do the same (well, actually, I had already decided after last year´s colloquium was finished!). I arrived in Paris last Thursday, on a rainy day…but I was so happy to be in Paris! I was positive that Beth Cagnol, the President of TESOL France and a wonderful person and educator, and her great team would prepare three great days for all of us who decided to attend. Which was exactly how things went! Beth opened the conference with a very emotional speech – I think we all had a lump in our throat just listening to her speak. Everyone at TESOL France made us feel so good there and enjoy a fantastic conference! This year I felt like I was returning to a very familiar place where I feel very welcome. Mille merci to everyone at TESOL France!
On Friday we had the chance to listen to Stephen Brewer´s plenary on It was the first time I was attending Stephen´s talk – Beth told us a lot of great things that Stephen has done in his career before he started his talk.
I especially liked what Stephen said about language being like music (as he is an amazing pianist himself) – for instance, that in language, as in music, we always have doubts as to how skilled we are, even if we are good at it.
What I also liked were the notions of human agency that Stephen mentioned – the great ability to exercise intentional influence and make choices. Then the inner game came into play – checking http://www.theinnergame.com, I found this definition:
What is The Inner Game?
“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure.”-Tim Gallwey
After Stephen’s plenary, I decided to attend Dale Coulter‘s session and was I ever happy to attend that one! Dale’s talk was Reflective Teacher Practice for Newly Qualified Teachers – he told us so many things he does daily in his teaching and my aha! moment was when he said he keeps a journal, a normal pencil-and-paper journal. As I told hm after his talk (and I was very fortunate to discuss quite extensively with him), this is my 12th year teaching and I have never ever kept a journal! Dale reassured me it is never too late and I am going to use this idea, for the reason that I am always rather critical of myself when something goes wrong in lessons and I immediately dismiss my ideas. Dale said something amazing in his session: focus on the positive points and what went well and also on what you can improve. The best kind of reflection in my opinion! Read his blog here: http://languagemoments.wordpress.com for more ideas. Thanks so much for a great session, Dale!
I love using different kinds of texts in my lessons, I have mentioned poetry and literature before – so now I will share with you a lesson plan I made about five years ago, using the song Clocks by British band Coldplay (which is also one of my favourite songs by them).
People who know me, know that they are one of my favourite bands – I love their music and the lyrics are great! (As a devoted fan I have all their CDs, but have not been to one of their concerts…yet!)
The students I have used this song with so far have really enjoyed it. (Depending on the group of students I may or may not use all of the activities. I usually use it for upper-intermediate or advanced students.)
Here are the lyrics:
Clocks by Coldplay
(from their CD A Rush of Blood to the Head)
The lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead singing
Come out of things unsaid
Shoot an apple off my head
And a trouble that can’t be named
A tiger’s waiting to be tamed singing
Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know singing
Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure,
Or am I part of the disease? Singing
You are (x6)
And nothing else compares (x3)
Home, home where I wanted to go (x4)
These are the tasks I used with them and usually one thing leads to another and might not even be on the lesson plan, which makes things even more interesting! It is fantastic to see what the students come up with every time. As with poetry, each person perceives things differently – it gives rise to amazing discussions and excellent language circulates in the classroom!
1. What is the general feeling of the song, when you look at the lyrics? Does anything change when you listen to the music? (This can be a pre- and post- listening task.)
2. Why do you think the lights go out and he is swimming against tides? What do these symbolise?
3. Who do you think the you is when the singer says you are? Use your imagination to think what that person is and why the singer does not complete the sentence.
4. Explain these words and phrases from their context and/or find synonyms. (As a teacher, I love it when we play with vocabulary!)
a. to bring somebody down
b. to plead
c. to tame
5. What do these words symbolise in your opinion, and what feelings do they render?
a. the tiger
b. the apple
c. closing walls
d. ticking clocks
e. my seas
6. What do you think the singer means with …Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?(Here they can point out things like word contrast, allegory and so on.)
The things you can do in class with songs are countless. If you have any other ideas to add, please feel free to do so!
Here are the lesson ideas in a Word document: Clocks by Coldplay. Let me know how they worked, should you use them!