Coming soon to IATEFL 2014…

Just a quick plug… this time next week, I’ll be presenting at this year’s IATEFL conference in Harrogate, with my co-blogger Katy Simpson Davies!

Our presentation is on Thursday 3rd April, entitled Practical pronunciation ideas for teaching in an ELF context.  Here’s the full abstract: Continue reading


IATEFL 2013: Pronunciation for listeners: Making sense of connected speech

First post in a series summarising my ‘best bits’ of the IATEFL 2013 conference. Going to try and post at least one thing each day, so watch this space!

This morning I saw Mark Hancock talking about how we can help learners make sense of connected speech features when listening. An entertaining and useful talk… here are the key points I took from it:

Learners may not need or want to sound like a native speaker. Continue reading

IATEFL 2012: No words: using sound and images in class

Just seen the lovely Mike Harrison sharing a few tips and tricks for using sound and images in class.  And here they are!  (My thoughts/comments in italics…)

Welcome screen on board before talk starts: Beware, for wolves come in many disguises… Please be ready to look, listen and draw.


Ooh, excited!  Room is filling up fast – and more people trying to come in!

Mike starts his talk by taking a photo of all of us!  Say cheese…

Let’s start by imagining a French ESP class – French for mechanics.  The teacher needs to teach “car’ but can’t translate for the students.  Pictures are a simple, clear, quick solution.  Concept immediately into students’ heads!  Picture of “voiture” – job done.  Similarly, a sound effect might help (e.g. the sound of a motor to teach “motor”).

Of course there are issues with pics – is it meant to show “car” or “estate car” etc?  But by and large they’re great.

Some recos for image sources – Jamie Keddie’s book and blog.  Ben Goldstein’s book.  ELTpics (credit to @victoriaB52 @vickyloras @cgoodey) collection of images, etc.

Activity 1 (which we try out): half the sts close their eyes; half the sts have their eyes open and must draw a pic to illustrate the sentence on the whiteboard.  After a moment, everyone opens their eyes & the people whose eyes were closed have to guess the sentence from their partner’s drawing (who had their eyes open).

Reference to Willy Cardoso‘s Pecha Kucha talk last night on teaching “at the edge of chaos” – meeting in the middle between chaos and creativity creates a great opportunity for learning.

Activity 2: we listen to a sound effect and have to think about what we’re feeling (in 3-5 words).  The sound effect makes me think: Sainsbury’s Saturday afternoon.  My partner, on the other hand, said: sea, crowd, restaurant, voices, chatting (!).  Mike observes that many of us wrote gerunds: queueing, shopping, etc., and feelings: patience, etc.  He reveals what it was: a 20-second recording in a supermarket (you can hear the beeping of the scanners, etc.).

IMPORTANT NOTE: some images and some sound effects might be upsetting for some students.  Be sensible and sensitive.

We can use images and sound for:

  • vocabulary
  • providing context for speaking activities
  • modifying reading/listening/writing
  • stimulating the imagination

We have a go at activity 3: Mike plays the same sound effect (in a supermarket/grocery store) and we have to create a short typical dialogue in that context.  Here’s my example with the guy next to me:

A: Good morning, Sir.

B: Good morning, can I have a pound of tomatoes and six apples?

A: Certainly, sir.  What type of apples would you like?

B: Golden delicious.

Another very funny example from the audience (thanks @jemjemgardner and @bealer81!) involves a couple talking in an aisle about picking up milk and sausages. 🙂

Mike notes that you could equally play another sound effect, more ambiguous (e.g. a thunderstorm) and see what students produce.  Once his students had things like “I’m in the shower” (!).

Activity 4: we read a couple of sentences and imagine them as animated in our minds. e.g. “There’s a bird, light and delicate, with feathers of silk.”  We have to keep these in mind.  Then we listen and see if the image we had in our mind changes.  He plays us an upbeat flute melody (from Peter & the Wolf by Prokofiev).  This adds a lot to what we read!!  Terrific.  Interplay between text and music sparks our imagination.

Activity 5: Mike reads us a little story about a duck and a bird.  We just listen.  At the end of the story, the duck and the bird have an argument.  Now in pairs, we have to discuss that argument!  What does it look like, etc.?  My thoughts at this moment: in about 10 seconds, my partner and I use all sorts of verbs of motion like “flit”, “hop”, “charge” and so on.  These are frequent in S-languages like English but less so in V-languages like Spanish (see Slobin, 2003*, for some explanation of this concept and research into it – but the gist is that some languages more readily encode manner of motion in their verbs, like in those examples I just typed, whereas other languages tend to use fewer, broader verbs – like walk, rather than skip/trot/amble – and mention manner of motion adverbially, if at all.  Would be interesting to try and develop the English way of manner-encoding in the EFL classroom through an activity like this!)  Anyway, Mike then plays us another clip from Peter and the Wolf to add music to our mental imagery, and again, see if it changes.

Activity 6: stimulating.  We divide a piece of paper into 4 sections, labelling each one 1-4.  (Reference to Vicky Saumell’s Pecha Kucha on choice last night – students have some choice!)  As they listen to 4 short music clips, the students scribble down a little drawing it makes them think of.  Here were mine… (clip 1 was: smooth piano jazz; clip 2: quick piece featuring various instruments, from the Sound of Music; clip 3: something orchestral that sounded like it was from a tense moment in a sci-fi movie, hence my drawing of a spaceship!; clip 4: slow, romantic music that conjures up – for me – images of heat, love, ancient civilisation…. something like Gladiator?)


Now students write a story to link the 4 boxes.  They work in small groups (3 or 4 ideally, pairs if necessary) to choose the best images from their sections, possibly from different students’ work, and write a story connecting whatever they’ve drawn in pics 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Note: Mike used commercially available music for his demo, but you could use anything.  Try searching for “creative commons” on Google and you might find sounds and images that are licensed for re-use by anyone, as long as they’re not making a profit.

Some more links if you’re interested:


My overall verdict: a great talk!  I often use images but rarely – almost never – use sound effects.  There’s so much untapped potential here!  Look out for Mike’s book about this coming out in the near future, to be published with @wetheround.

*Source: something I’ve been reading for my MA about the influence of linguistic structures on thought.

POST-CONFERENCE UPDATE: You can find some more details and links for the session by the man himself here!

IATEFL 2012: How to teach with an iPad

Damn the Posterous template automatically making the “i” capital in the title of this post!…..

Er, anyway, just seen Steven Bukin talking about how to teach with an iPad.  Especially interested in this as our school’s just got one!  Here’s how it went (notes typed, as usual, while session’s going on, so forgive any typos, unclear comments, apparently random mixing of tenses, etc…) (my comments in italics)

Started by overhearing a guy saying his school director (in Japan) is very excited and wants all his teachers to start using iPads.  Several hundred teachers all teaching using iPads is his dream!

OK, talk starting.

The first thing he sees when he walks into his classroom is a bunch of young sts on various digital devices.  Goes something like this:

Teacher (Steven): “Hello!”

Students (one of whom is tapping away on 3 phones): [radio silence]

Is this a problem?  He says no.  Let’s harness it.  In his words…

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Some terms:

Ambient intimacy: we have the possibility to communicate all the time, 24/7.  No downtime.  No time for reflection.  We are always curating our digital selves.  In the past, people created tools that were an extension of the physical self (hammers, etc.).  Now digital tools are an extension of the mental self.

Nomophobia: No-mobile phobia!  A fear of being without a mobile, or being able to be contacted by one.  66% of people in a recent survey by a newspaper said they had this.  Greater percentage among young generation (age 18-24).  59% had 2 mobiles.  We check our mobiles on average 34 times a day!

Dual-screening: people watch something on one screen and comment on it on another screen at the same time (much like I’m doing now!) 😀

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device.  According to Steven, the biggest thing coming into education technology now.  Students bringing in their own devices to class.  One modern concept reflecting this: the “flipped classroom”.

He proposes: IWBs will become redundant, obsolete.  Tablets will take over – because the same functions can be replicated.

Contents of session today:

1. Presentations can be given using an iPad (as Steven’s doing in this talk!)

2. iPads can also be used as a visualiser – i.e. scanning documents and showing them on a big screen.

3. …and as a remote desktop.  You can use your iPad to connect to your PC and control it remotely, using programs that don’t normally run on an iPad.

4. Finally, you can use iPads as voter response systems, working interactively with students in the classroom.

(4b.) Oh, and he’ll share a few apps, too. 🙂

And, he’s off!  Here we go……

To wirelessly connect an iPad 2 with a projector, you can use an Apple TV.  It also connects with iPhones, so students with iPhones in class can hook up, too.

One free app: Skitch.  Made by same company that makes Evernote.  You can put a photo or any document on the iPad, then annotate it on-screen on the iPad.  (Guy in sesh next to me checking out Skitch on his iPad right now!) 🙂

Another free app: Whiteboard Lite.  You can connect 2 devices so 2 people can write.

Another free collaborative app (though not particularly user-friendly): Groupboard.

And another: Paperdesk.  You can prepare your lesson, annotate things, record things… good for preparing a grammar lesson before class, for example.  The free version only lets you record 3 pages, but if you pay you get more access and it’s not that expensive (about $2?).

Steven’s using Keynote for his preso today.  (Mac equivalent to PowerPoint, for those who don’t know.)

You can also use Prezi.  You can’t create a presentation on Prezi but you can view it on the Prezi Viewer App.

Another thing you can do: screencasting.  You record what’s happening on screen and add audio commentary just by speaking into your computer microphone.  Two examples he likes: ShowMe and Explain Everything.  You can record something on your screen, annotate it, etc.  He shows an example of Explain Everything, which allows you to draw shapes, text, etc. on-screen.  In his example, he has bubbles representing stressed syllables and you can slide words (typed-in text) underneath them to match the stress patterns.  e.g. “vegetables” = 3 circles, first one biggest.  You can also record yourself saying these words so when students drag the words into the right places, they can hear the pron and check their answers.

Importantly, you can also share this!  So you can email images, lessons, whatever, that you’ve created to your students.

Visualiser function now – the iPad has an in-built camera, so you can take a pic of a coursebook page for example…

…and he sort of trails off.  OK, you can project an image from the iPad on-screen of something in the classroom – but why not just get students to come cluster around that actual thing in the classroom?  The iPad seems a bit of a pointless addition here…

OK, another app: iThoughtsHD.  You can create mind maps on-screen.  e.g. vocab topic: “travel” in centre-screen.  You can branch out in to different areas around the screen (how?? demo, please!).  You can also upload images to accompany this.

For note-taking: Evernote.  It’s a way of storing info, storing notes.

How to connect your iPad to your desktop computer?  Doceri.  It allows you to connect to and control your computer from an iPad.  So if for example you have some software that won’t run on an iPad (e.g. anything with Flash!!), you can show it on the iPad by using this program.  It’s a bit fiddly at first but simple once you get the hang of it.  You can mirror what’s on your computer on the iPad screen.  It’s PC- and Mac-compatible.

Ooh, time for a bit of a workshop thing with the audience.  People with smart devices need to log-in to and type in a code, so we can have a go with some of the tech he’s showing us.  (He’s going to test our knowledge of Scotland with some kind of IWB quiz thingy….)

Here’s a screengrab of how it looks once we’re in:


A moment ago, I tweeted this:



But this quiz, I think, is actually worth the extra tech – Steven shows us how sts can do the quiz on their iPads/iPhones/whatever and as they go through the questions and put in their answers, a real-time table of results can be projected on-screen.  Extra competitive!  And a bit flash. 🙂

The tool he used to make this quiz: Socrative.  You can create a quiz before the lesson and get students to do it in-class.

He’s showing us how to use Socrative (or trying to – tech is failing him! app not working at the moment)…. Oh dear.  Kind of undermining the glory of tech he was touting… this talk might have been a bit more impressive if all the tech was working.  Suggestions from the audience as to what to do are revealing quite a few other ‘experts’ in the room…

Let’s move on.

Some good things about using tech tools for voting/quizzes: research (Cutrim Schmid 2005) shows…

– an increased level of student participation

– instant feedback on sts’ understanding

– sts can check own progress with peers

– increased thinking time during lesson

– fosters curiosity in a specific topic

– stimulates debates on subjective issues

– introduces fun in the form of competitive games

(But if I hadn’t included “tech” in the heading for this list, would you have known it was meant to be a list of factors in favour of technology?  Why can’t any of these things be true in a non-tech classroom??  I personally love technology and use it, but this list won’t convince anyone that it’s necessary.  Again, this all appears to just be tech for the sake of tech.)

And some problems:

– it doesn’t always work! (as seen in this session!)

– you have to design your questions carefully (again – true of all activities, not just iPad quizzes…)

– ….

No more mentioned.  Seriously?

More app recommendations:

Dragon Dictate.  Allows you to speak into your iPad and write what you’re saying on the screen.  It’s free!  What he doesn’t say is that you have to train it to your voice, which takes time.  Might be a bit tricky to use with more than one student – I wonder if you can train it to multiple voices?

Rory’s Story Cubes.  This is fun.  Lets you roll a bunch of ‘dice’, each cube with pics on its 6 faces.  You ‘shake the dice’, they fall into a random position showing a random selection of pics.  Students then create a story from the visible pics.  This is really an iPhone application – get the students to download it and they can play in groups.

OK, enough apps.  Let’s talk about the future.

10,000 tablets (not iPads) in 300 Russian schools.  Target: 16.5 million.


e-textbooks are also on the horizon.  Apple has just released free software called iBooks Author, with which you can create your own books.  He doesn’t mention that this allows you to not only write text, but include images AND VIDEO on the pages.  It’s incredible.

My overall verdict: Forgive the seeming immodesty, but I knew a lot of this stuff – and I think he could have done more to really sell it.  There’s a time and a place for tech in the classroom and it needs to be justified.  I’m not convinced by this presentation (and I wasn’t a skeptic to start with!).  But oh well.  Some interesting apps mentioned, a few of which I hadn’t heard of before and will check out when I get back to my school and its iPad. 🙂