Lucy Blakemore (@LucyBlakemore) is a teacher turned e-learning market research analyst and she has plenty to say about technology in education. She is also one of the founding members of MeetELT, en exciting new venture bringing English language teachers together to share ideas, network and have fun! In this guest post, Lucy describes the first ever MeetELT event, held in Sydney earlier this month. May it be the first of many around the country!
On Thursday, 21st February at 5pm, over 80 teachers piled up the stairs to the Attic Room at the Arthouse Hotel, Sydney. A week previously, registrations had to be closed as numbers reached capacity for our first ever ‘MeetELT’ event, an attempt to provide English teachers with an opportunity to come together and share real, practical ideas for the classroom. The theme was ‘Playing With Time’ and true to form – or perhaps in tribute to the chosen topic – we were still waiting for the last few to squeeze through the doors at 5:10pm. From the first introductions through to the final postcard-writing activity, there was enthusiasm, engagement and most importantly a whole heap of idea-swapping going on. We began with a simple speed-date warmer, timed (of course) to encourage participants to speak to a new partner every 60 seconds.
Suitably warmed up, we flowed straight into the first of four PechaKucha presentations that evening, Dan Bruce’s (University of Sydney) intriguingly-titled ‘Ever-expanding essentials of ELT’. Part survival manual, covering elements of dogme/teaching unplugged and a return to basic principles, Dan reassured us that minimum prep time can be transformed into valuable learning outcomes with the right approach.
Not wishing to leave the audience alone for too long, we unleashed our first ‘Pecha Karaoke’ session, mixing up the format to give partners 40 seconds a slide to reflect on 10 questions and thought-provokers, including a challenge to apply PechaKucha techniques to a variety of classroom contexts.
Clare McGrath (Australian TESOL Training Centre) barely had chance to blink before it was her turn to take the microphone, bringing us a flurry – a snowstorm, even – of ways to tackle micro-moments of time with a focus on word stress. From syllabification in Swahili to dictionary skills, drilling and guided discovery, Clare had us questioning how to say gubernatorial and antiferromagnetically, but left us in no doubt that we would do more clapping, slapping and maybe even coin-rubbing in the classroom as soon as possible!
This took us to half-time, but rather than give the audience a rest, brain cells were stirred into action with a musical quiz involving time expressions. 6 decades, 12 minutes and 14 songs later, answer sheets were reluctantly yielded for marking and phones consulted to settle a few awkward arguments.
Next up was Jock Boyd (Think: CLASS) with a fascinating perspective on ‘Digital Time’ and a question for us all to ponder – does our students’ prolific use of digital devices affect how they respond to our classroom activities? Jock suggested ‘there’s no time like the present’ and offered a few insights into how we can appeal to the attention spans of our students and the ‘instant gratification’ they may crave. Another Pecha Karaoke session gave our audience chance to ponder these implications with a partner, and finally we welcomed our last speakers to the stage.
Lucy Worthington and Sophie O’Keefe (Navitas English) finished the evening with a presentation on breaking down time to help with student motivation, bringing their distant future goals into closer view. They considered how to help students build a picture of their ‘ideal L2 self’ and brought us to a practical close with ideas for ending each lesson on a high note.
Moments later, we wrapped things up by asking each participant to write themselves a postcard with ideas they wanted to remember from the evening, which will serve as a reminder when it arrives in the post in a week or two. All that remained then was to thank our participants, award a pile of Pearson goodies to our quiz winners and count the audience votes to reveal that Lucy and Sophie had scooped the prize for best speakers of the night – well done!
Many thanks again to the ELT community in Sydney for your enthusiasm and support. If you would like to be involved as we plan future events, please let us know – we’d love to hear from you. Keep an eye on the MeetELT website for all the presentations soon!