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On BELTA Day 2017 I was the lucky one to be picked out of the raffle box as winner of the first ever travel grant for the IATEFL conference. Sadly, the award received its name a few weeks later as the Joris De Roy Travel Grant as a tribute to his lifelong dedication to teacher training.
I had heard such a lot about the conference from colleagues that my hopes for Brighton were high. And indeed, it turned out to be a very inspiring week for me. The conference hosted over 2,000 participants and over 700 presenters from all over the world. Each day’s programme started with a plenary session followed by 8 talks / workshops. Participants could choose from +/- 20 sessions per time slot.
As a business English teacher, I chose both a number of BESIG (the special interest group for business English) presentations and some general sessions. Some of the things I heard were a reinforcement of what I already knew and practised. Such as what I heard in a number of sessions: that all teaching should start by motivating your students: ‘You can bring the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink!’ You can indeed teach your students very interesting lessons but students should be aware of why they are studying English and what they will use it for in their future careers. This will make them more focused and more motivated to take in what you teach them.
The actual teaching should be learner-oriented. Students have become ‘smombies’, smartphone zombies, and use the Internet all the time so what better way to motivate them than to make use of these media. Several workshops were dedicated to this approach and this was new to me to some extent. Teaching grammar e.g. is a lot more ‘fun’ if it is based on real-life material (derived from e.g. google) and rules are deducted from that. Or why not have your students listen to a podcast series on a real-life crime story such as Serialand make a murder wall on the story. This will really engage students. There is a wide range of apps that can be used in the classroom e.g. HPreveal for using augmented reality, Lyricstraining for using gapped songs at different levels, etc.
But IATEFL was not all work and no play! I met a lot of interesting people there from all over the world and enjoyed the evening activities such as the international quiz, a comedy night and a salsa class.
As I have already said: this turned out to be a most inspiring week. It gave me this ‘buzz’ to apply all of this in the classroom!