Reflections from the English UK Scotland conference

I was delighted to be asked to speak at the star studded English UK Scotland conference at Mackenzie School of English in Edinburgh on Saturday 23rd February.   It was a fabulous day and I was heartened to feel a sense of community with fellow ELT professionals up here in Scotland.

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Image courtesy of Jon Hird

First up was Mark Hancock, the master of pronunciation. He spoke about the 4Ms of pronunciation (Muscle, Mind, Meaning and Memory) and furnished us with an imaginative array of activities to get students to understand how to physically produce sounds, figure out the differences between sounds, understand the meaning of the words and phrases, then, ultimately, remember them. His book, Pronunciation Games, has long been a favourite of mine and the first thing I did on getting back to college after the conference was ask my line manager for a copy of his ELTon award winning PronPack for our staff room.

I got lucky with my slot as I was directly after Mark’s, leaving the rest of the day to relax and absorb everyone’s great ideas. I was Literally Speaking about speaking, a skill that is much sought after by students, employers, volunteer coordinators, potential friends and (eye roll) the Home Office!  You can read more of my thoughts on this in my previous blog post about speaking.

Next up was Emma Cresswell from International House, Aberdeen.  She gave a thoroughly engaging workshop on the vibrant and intricate history of the English language and gave us all some insights into why spelling and pronunciation of words often makes no sense whatsoever (just think of all the different ways to pronounce ‘ough’ to name but one).  Her talk ended with loads of ideas to practise spelling in the classroom and she even gave us some homework: The history of the English language in ten minutes.

Carole Anne Robinson is a Senior Trainer at Nile.  She took us on a journey exploring the usefulness of skimming, scanning and comprehension questions for reading texts then introduced us to a an inspiring selection of alternatives.  One of my favourites was Johanna Stirling‘s, ‘Reading with a pen’ idea in which learners read a text and mark the key points, then read again and mark any information that is new to them before reading one final time to rate how much they agree with it.  That’s my next reading lesson prepped!

Corinne Wales put me in the mood for digging my teeth into some research in the near future.  She has found that many DipTESOL students are hindered in their research by busy teaching commitments and that working together with schools the student and organisation can complete research which is mutually beneficial.  It made me wonder if there is scope for short, certifiable research to be carried out by post-Dip teachers who’d like to dip their toes (pun intended) back into research.  Does such a thing exist?

After a quick coffee and a leftover lunch buffet break, it was back to the main room for Adrian Doff.  He explored informal assessment in the classroom as well as the principles of learning oriented assessment and their application to the classroom.  As the closing keynote ELT focused session, his talk was engaging, informative and got us all thinking how to use ‘can-do statements’ to evaluate learners’ progress.

line up English UK Scotland

After six thought provoking sessions, I could hear my own brain whirring uncontrollably, but then Colin McGuire bounced onto the floor!  He took us through a 3 minute mindfulness session, which was exactly what my overstimulated brain needed.  He continued with a quickfire bounce and pounce activity asking us to reflect on things we are grateful for before launching into one of the most infectiously energetic poetry readings I’ve ever seen.  His poetry is poignant, funny and most definitely worth a read (or better, going to see).

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As a little bonus to an already fantastic day, Jon Hird gave me a copy of this wonderful little pocket book.  It’ll be my desktop pal from now on!

Thanks so much to the English UK Scotland team and to all the speakers for making this such a pure dead brilliant (as we say in Scotland) day.  It was a tough call choosing which sessions to go to and I’m sad to have missed so many of the other pros.  Fingers crossed I get to see them some time in the future.

Roll on the next English UK Scotland conference.

 

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