Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Event 2015: TESOL MTh and TESOL Greece join forces!

Luke Prodromou


Dr. Luke Prodromou graduated from Bristol, Birmingham and Nottingham Universities. His MA was in Shakespeare Studies and his PhD in idioms and English as a lingua franca.

He has published numerous textbooks and two handbooks for teachers on Mixed Level Classes and Dealing with Difficulties. He has worked for the British Council and a number of teacher training centers in the UK (Pilgrims, Nile et al) and other countries. He has been a plenary speaker at many international conferences. 

Until recently he was a full-time item writer on the KPG. 
Luke is a founder member of the Disabled Access Campaign. He also gives talks on Shakespeare and Dickens - and performances as part of the Dave'N'Luke English Language Theatre. In 2015-2016 the team will be celebrating Shakespeare in the show All the World's a Stage. 

Title of talk: From Socrates to Bill Gates - a dialogue with digital natives


Digital technology is a revolution in our life comparable to the invention of writing, printing and the industrial revolution. It is changing our world, including our classrooms, in radical ways. 

This talk, drawing on recent research, takes a critical look at the impact of the Internet on our classrooms, our brains and our lives. It asks questions and raises issues that all teachers, parents and friends should be asking - so we understand what is gained and what is lost as we become more and more connected.

Anastasia Metallinou


Anastasia Metallinou is a highly motivated, enthusiastic and experienced English language teacher who specialises in Specific Learning Differences (dyslexia). She studied English and History at Oxford Brookes University (BA Honours). She has also received a master’s degree in Special Education (MEd) from University of Bristol. She teamed up with Dr Anne Margaret Smith and wrote ‘English Sounds Fun’. ESF is an innovative, highly structured intervention programme designed specifically for dyslexic students of English as a foreign language. 

Title of talk: Teaching dyslexic learners – practical ways of building self-esteem


Dyslexic learners face many challenges, usually made worse by a lack of self-confidence. In this session simple strategies will be demonstrated for building the self-esteem that dyslexic students need to succeed in learning, and in life.

Only Connect: Seven Strategies for Ensuring Teacher-Student Communication in the Classroom - Plenary Talk by Ken Wilson

Interview with Ken Wilson by Aspa Georgopoulou

In his plenary talk, Ken Wilson talked about the radical change that the teacher-student communication has undergone in classrooms where technology is available and offered valuable and practical ideas on how the vital link between the teacher and the students can be maintained in a hi-tech classroom.

Starting off, Ken took us on a journey through the history of education, showing us some of the most essential changes that took place in the learning environment over the last century. From the one-room school to the round table classroom every major change always raised complaints and concerns, some of which, undeniably, cleared the way for evaluation, re-planning and improvement, thus blazing new trails in the field of education. The hi-tech classroom is today’s latest revolutionary change and Ken wanted to share with us his “small complaint” about technology in the classroom and how it is used. 

There are schools today, he said, where every classroom has a computer at every desk. According to a student, who learns in such an environment, the computers have changed the relationship the students had with their teacher. Reflecting on the importance of this relationship, Ken explained, that good teachers always engage with their students at the start of every class, for a long time before anything else happens. This engagement becomes a conversation, a real life event. However, in the hi-tech classroom, where both the student and the teacher look at the screen and not at each other, this engagement doesn’t work anymore. Additionally, given that every class is mixed ability, putting all our students with their different attitudes and talents in front of the screen, we may not be providing for all their different needs. 

Ken explained that we can’t stop technology but we can make sure that the old fashioned engagement continues and emphasized on the teacher’s role in finding ways to get students together and motivate them. He recommended seven strategies which will help teachers maintain the vital link between them and their students, in today’s hi-tech classroom.

1. “Develop voices, yours and your students’.” Teachers and students should learn to breathe and speak using their diaphragm. If our diaphragm is developed, we have a wider range of control over our breath and we can project our voice better, preventing voice strain in the long term. Finding the diaphragm voice, gives our voices a strong presence and helps us communicate in a much more effective way! Ken suggested an activity called “Sound of the day” to help our students build control and strength over their voices in a fun way. He asked the attendees to stand up, take a deep breath and make the sound /er/ while breathing out. Then, he asked them to let a different sentence each time be heard in their voices while making this sound. The room was filled with funny sounds and laughter that made everyone feel more relaxed!

2. “Talk about yourself.” Ken stressed how important it is for the teacher to actually be part of the class. Sharing a personal story can be a good way to start a lesson and connect with the students. The teacher can also use his/her own selfies to make interesting activities involving lots of guessing and speaking. Ken, himself, showed one of his selfies and asked the attendees to discuss with a partner where they think the photo was taken and what was happening. In a second activity he showed a selfie of him and a famous person at the back! The task was to ask questions to find out who the famous person was! Both activities managed to raise curiosity and instilled everyone with a strong desire to know and learn!

3. “Switch on your phones.” Nowadays most of our students have sophisticated personal technology. Why not include it in the lesson? Ken asked the attendees to take out their mobile phones and access their photo galleries. He called the first activity “10 second challenge”. He asked everyone to find a particular kind of photo and hold their phones up. Then, he went around allowing people to talk about their photos. In a second activity he asked them to show their partner a photo that meant something to them and talk about it. There was a lot of speaking and sharing, driven by the need to talk about things that are about us and therefore really interest us!

4. “Find out what your students know.” Ken made clear how important it is for the teacher to use the student’s own knowledge and areas of interest in the lesson. An interesting activity, he suggested, involved the use of the course book’s content pages. He showed the attendees some topics from such a content page. He asked them to choose a topic and write down a fact about it on a post-it. Then, he asked them to exchange their facts with others and finally, to share with the class someone else’s fact. An activity with a lot of sharing, but also real listening to each other! Ken went on by suggesting to keep the students’ fact post-its and use them when reaching the corresponding units. It became obvious that incorporating student’s own interests into the lesson, can catch their attention and engage them in the learning procedure.

5. “Teach unplugged.” Ken shared with us a personal experience of him being, recently, a student of German and experiencing from the learner’s point of view, the need for a more learner-focused lesson. Occasioned by that, he talked about the Dogme ELT methodology and its key principles, a movement that grew out of ideas and beliefs on the importance of a conversation-driven learner-focused language teaching. Ken pointed out that the implementation of such a philosophy of language learning can be very difficult, especially if a teacher has to follow a specific curriculum and/or a course book. Understanding the difficulty, but not being able to oversee the necessity, Ken’s message to all was to, occasionally, abandon our plan, follow the trails the students have to offer and see what happens! 

6. “Do something unexpected.” Due to lack of time, this strategy was (unexpectedly) omitted. 

7. “Be memorable.” Ken talked about the importance of leaving personal problems outside the classroom’s door and starting every lesson with a smile. This will definitely connect the teacher with his/her students and improve their relationship. And it is much more important than how well we teach! 

7+. “for NESTs” Ken explained that native English-speaking teachers (NESTs) in Greece can speak Greek fluently, because they learned it in Greece, the country the language is spoken. However, Greek students don’t learn English in England which makes learning more difficult for them. Therefore, he encouraged us to step into our student’s shoes and take up a new language ourselves. Learning a language the way our students do, will help us understand their difficulties and suit our teaching to fit their needs.

Ken finished his talk with a quote from Howards End, by E.M. Forster: “Only Connect! … Live in fragments no longer” urging us all to consider that by putting all students behind a screen there is a strong possibility of “fragmenting” their education! 

A thought provoking, highly informative talk with a lot of interaction, sharing and fun. Implementing his suggested strategies, Ken Wilson managed to engage the attendees from the first till the last minute, allowing this way everyone to experience how, connecting with our students can maximize learning opportunities for all. 

By Aspa Georgopoulou

Photos by Margarita Kosior

Bringing it Alive! - Plenary Talk by Alec WIlliams

Now that I am writing the report on Morale Williams’ plenary I realize why I was so engrossed in his talk. He kicked it off by telling us a story which included Greek greeting on his part. I can assure all readers of this report that Mr. Williams did thrill his audience with this gesture of politeness and empathy. He then directly linked the theme of our 22nd TESOL Macedonia Thrace Convention “Back to Basics” to storytelling by saying that stories are a basic human need as they are how we make sense of the world, how we entertain, how we pass on experience, how we break the news, and how we recall history. Stories have existed as long as humans have existed, Mr. Williams pointed out. And I can see why now…

“Bringing it alive” the title of his plenary is used by Mr. Williams because it works in two ways as he explained to the members of our association. Firstly, stories can be used in English teaching in order to bring alive the subject itself and thus avoid exercised-based teaching. Secondly, if teachers put a little bit of drama and expression, in other words their heart and soul, into reading and telling a story, they can lift the words off the page! 

As for the reasons why we tell stories, Mr. Williams reminded to us that stories help with language and speech. We can always tell a child who has been read to. They are more concentrated, they are more confident of putting their hands up. Also, stories give a vocabulary that children wouldn’t otherwise hear. Book language has its own richness and rhythms so teachers should make room for it. 

Stories help people develop other skills, too. They help with joining in together. Researches have shown the younger children are read to, the better they become even in subjects such as Maths and Physical Education. Stories can help children face something safely second hand because there are topics they can explore in a story with a trusted adult i.e. their teacher or a parent. They help with emotional development and imagination. A bond of affection can be created between the teller and their audience and in the case of parents an intimacy. Stories can bring objects to life. Values, morals, truths are best passed on casually through storytelling. They recall history. They spread understanding because you can’t fight someone when you know their story. And where can we find stories? Mr. Williams suggested books, picture books, short stories from older collections of books or through memory.

He rewarded us for sharing our first experience of story with colleagues sitting near us for about 5’ with the story of how the dog came to live with man. It is just one example of “Why Stories” which try to explain things. Needless to say that Mr. Williams’ acting skills may surpass those of many famous actors’. He went on to clarify how stories help particularly with language learning. He said that as children naturally need and enjoy stories these help learning because they are memorable. He also suggested that natural language be used when telling stories and colloquialisms, sayings, proverbs be put in because they provide an opportunity to hear English in performance. Choosing a story is obviously important so Mr. Williams encouraged his audience to read through many stories until they find that one story which as a storyteller would put it “wants you to tell it". Of course, a storyteller should feel free to use their judgment in order to make those changes to stories which would suit their style or their audience. Additionally, it would be a good idea if poetry was not forgotten because there are useful and memorable words in that, too. 

According to Mr. Williams there is no such debate as Reading versus Telling stories because he thinks both have different advantages. Reading has a more direct association with the printed text. It enables to share visual focus. It enables you to read stories you might not be able to tell from memory. It allows greater qge range. It involves prediction before you turn the page…

Telling stories without a book gives greater freedom to the teller. It stimulates the imagination. The stories are happening in front of the children!

Teachers of English should start with fairly simple stories with a lot of interaction. He advised us to use body language, facial expressions, movement and of course the space we have. And an unexpected suggestion. A drawing story. The drawing he drew while telling the story answered the question at the end of it! 

During his talk Mr. Williams gave us a wealth of tips. Some of them are: 

1. Story tellers in general, shouldn’t use a book with a large audience because they won’t be able to see.

2. Picture stories don’t work with a big audience but they are ideal for parents and children because they go over two laps. What an emotional touch!

3. He issued an appeal to the audience not to turn the pages of the book into quizzes. Instead, he asked us to let the stories explode in the heads of the children! Last but not least, natural follow-up is wonderful. What might that mean? Well, seeing the children re-enacting the stories they have just heard during the break. Or simply welcome immediate reactions by saying “What did you think of it?” or “My favourite bit was that.”

Our charmer left us with some of his wisdom. 

”If you don’t do much storytelling, do more. If you don’t do any at all, do some. But above all enjoy that storytelling. Children will usually laugh with you rather than at you. And if they do laugh at you, it’s worth it in the long run to bring them that joy and that learning that comes out of it by including more and more stories as much as you can in your English teaching lessons.”

Thank you Mr. Williams.

By Elsa Tsiakiri

Photos by Margarita Kosior

Storying is Central in Our Daily Life. What about the Classroom? - Plenary Talk by Andrew Wright

Interview with Andrew Wright by Emmanuel Kontovas

The 22nd Annual International Convention of Tesol Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece was concluded with Andrew Wright’s plenary talk entitled "Storying is Central in Our Daily Life. What about the Classroom?". Bissell Library was literally packed with people who were looking forward to listening to the extremely interesting ideas on story telling and how it can become an integral part of the teaching process. Andrew Wright’s vast experience from the 50 years of teaching in more than 55 countries makes him a leading figure in the field of storytelling and an invaluable source of ideas.

 Mr. Wright started his talk by giving a description of his childhood years and the village where he grew up as well as his conversations with his mother. Simple everyday incidents were narrated in the form of a story in Mr. Wright’s unique style and had as their main focus the fact that freedom of expression is essential in the “birth” of any story. Afterwards, he went on to describe the technique he learnt from a theatrical group he once belonged to where to create a story we have to answer four questions; the “who”, “where”, “when” and “what”. These simple yet demanding questions can be the basis of creating any story and any character with our students.

The next stage of Mr. Wright’s presentation included the actual creation of a story right there and then with the participation of the audience. This was a most enjoyable activity that the whole audience really liked and had fun taking part in. Mr. Wright started by asking these four questions, one at a time. As it was expected he got many different answers in each question. He accepted all the answers provided and stressed that it is important in the process of creating a story not to try and guide the students’ answers and dismiss any of them as incorrect but instead to make even more open-ended questions in order to find how the different answers can be combined in a logical way. This of course was the most surprising and exciting point of his presentation and there was a lot of fun among the audience because some of the answers were completely contrasting. Nevertheless we were shown that through many questions even ideas that may seem opposing can be part of the same story. It was an enjoyable and fun way of creating a story and that way he said students want to participate and they are not afraid of using the language since there are no right or wrong answers. 

Mr. Wright proved in his talk that stories are part of our lives. Even many TV channels use as their motto the word “stories” and they say that they have some stories to present to us. When we watch the news, in reality we watch stories told by the reporters. Every day all of us use stories and in a way we are storytellers. But teaching our students how to write their own stories demands the creation of a routine based on four simple questions and the safety of an inclusive environment of mutual respect where every idea expressed is important and builds up in the creation of the story. Mr. Wright concluded his presentation by saying that stories are powerful and we should include them in our teaching as a very important part of the curriculum.

By Emmanuel Kontovas

Photos by Margarita Kosior

Getting Unstuck: Stretching Out of Our Comfort Zones - Plenary Talk by Marjorie Rosenberg

28th March 2015, Saturday morning, Marjorie Rosenberg kicked off the 22nd International Annual Convention of TESOL Macedonia-Thrace ‘Back to Basics’ with her plenary talk ‘Getting Unstuck’.

She started by asking the simple question: how many of the attendees feel stuck or have felt stuck in their daily routine as teachers. No matter whether some of us are new in the profession or have decades of experience, there are times that we feel that we are coming to a dead-end and nothing seems to get us going.

She went on to list eight distinct categories where teachers can stretch out from their comfort zones and explore areas that would be a possible way forward by looking at answers from colleagues around the globe.

I. Using new methods – using TPR with adults: the results may surprise you. Giving students the responsibility for revision rather than distributing a pre-planned schedule. Using unplugged teaching (teaching through conversation, no technology, no coursebook, student-driven). Using riddles from literature to help students write.

II. New subjects – Getting new groups with different needs and interests and addressing different topics derived from the students.

III. New Technology – Using Prezi, MentorMob, Vocaroo helps teachers create ‘learning playslists’. Bitstrips lets you design cartoons, very inspiring with young learners. A wiki can be an especially helpful tool with university students.

IV. Continual Professional Development – Search for new ways to develop yourself professionally. Take on new certificate courses and earn diplomas. Use social media websites, blogs, read methodology books and attend webinars and conferences. Learn another language; this will help you see from students’ aspect how knowledge can be acquired.

V. Stretching out of your learning style – Implementing activities contradictory to your own learning style, i.e. doing more kinesthetic activities although you are a visual learner.

VI. Colleagues – Having colleagues observe your classes and vice versa to give each other feedback. Having business breakfast and coffee meetings for teachers.

VII. PLN – Set up networks of professionals and friends, i.e. Facebook, Twitter. Join Facebook and Twitter groups and exchange teaching ideas.

VIII. New area of ELT – Finally, there are numerous areas of ELT that allow teachers to stretch out of their personal comfort zone, get inspired and become motivated and implement new ideas into their teaching. For instance, they can use new technology and teach over Skype or Hangout applications. They could start blogging, writing supplementary materials, editing, becoming active in a teaching association and collaborating with colleagues. Technology can be used as a means to develop communities and run online courses. The options are endless.

To support her suggestions, Marjorie introduced us to specific ideas like eltchat, a Twitter-based chat where ELT topics are suggested, voted on and discussed. Eltpicshas a Flickr account where photos from teachers for teachers are uploaded. Teachers can download and use any picture from that account as long as the source is acknowledged. Disabled Access Friendly Campaign is a site where lesson plans by volunteers are collected and its aim is to raise awareness of mobility disabilities. Simple English Videos by Vicki Hollett focuses on language difficulties that learners often face and they are presented on short videos. Trying something new, a Facebook page started by Theodora Papapanagiotou where new ideas are exchanged.

Marjorie finished her plenary talk by showing us the TED Talk ‘Try something new for 30 days’ by Matt Cutts. He talks about how his life has changed by doing one new thing for a month. Teachers and, generally, anyone who feels stuck in their daily routines and hesitates to take a step further out of their comfort zones can find quite a few new ideas to get unstuck. Sometimes, it only takes one simple thing.

Marjorie’s plenary talk was most inspiring and motivating, informative and entertaining. She kept a full room of attendees electrified and made the best possible opening to our convention. We hope she will honour us again soon.

By Georgia Psarra

Photos by Margarita Kosior

Spotlight on Learning Styles (Workshop) by Marjorie Rosenberg – Report

Marjorie Rosenberg has started her talk, mentioning that all people learn differently. There is a variety of learners in every classroom, so teachers have to keep this in mind. Unfortunately this does not happen regularly, since teachers tend to teach the way they learn and they may not be reaching all types. Using a mix of methods definitely can reach more learners and achieve better results in the classroom, it can help learners stretch out of their preferred styles and learners can be encouraged to develop successful strategies. In this way the teacher can harmonize with and then challenge students.

Marjorie went on to explain how each type learns, for example, sensory perception consists of visual, auditory, kinaesthetic motoric and kinaesthetic emotional learners whereas cognitive learners are divided into global and analytic learners. People are aware of and store information according to their senses perception whereas global learners tend to think out of the box, while analytic learners want the facts. She pointed out that when we get stressed, we may rely mostly on our most comfortable preference so teaching learners to stretch out of their styles is important in order to provide them with more strategies to learn. 

In the second part of her talk she showed us more examples of learner types, e.g. the systematic and non-systematic learner, the organised power planner, the inspiring radical reformer, the sociable flexible friend and the factual expert investigator who always asks why. 

In the final part of the workshop she gave us examples of interesting and challenging activities that we can use with our students depending on their learning styles.

Some of them were:

· What have I changed?

· What would you do if …?

· Can you describe the drawing?

· The yes-no hot seat

· The envelope game

· Can you sell it?

· Personal mind maps

All in all it was a very interesting and informative talk.

The activities were taken from ‘Spotlight on Learning Styles’, Delta Publishing 2013.

By Theodora Papapanagiotou

Your Stories for Them (Workshop) by Andrew Wright - Report

Andrew Wright wasn’t wearing his storytelling coat on that Saturday morning, but he was definitely in storytelling mood. His workshop included tips on effective storytelling in our classrooms and of course, he read a few stories too.

But, why do we tell stories?
Andrew Wright believes that stories give motivation, they allow students to experience English instead of just study it, allow for bonding, support the four basic skills, help presenting and re-recycling and springboarding.

What are stories?
Stories can be real (facts, history, our life) or fiction (oral or written). They are life’s daily stage of events and we are the actors and how we talk, walk and behave is part of the story as well.

How to tell stories?
  • Be clear: Tell your story in such a way so that people can understand you.
  • Include drama: Struggles (small or big) keep listeners engaged.
  • Be vivid: Describe as well as you can so people can see, hear and feel the story.
  • Commit and give yourself as much as you can.
  • Brainstorm your memories. Provide summary words and phrases. What is the situation? Who is involved? When? Where?
  • Use the five senses: See, hear, smell, taste, touch.
  • Include what you and key people thought, felt, said, did.

Photo by Dimitris Tzouris

When telling a story, put your orchestra of telling to work: Content, words, voice, body, objects and pictures and participation.

In case of interruptions, cling on to your warm giving instead of introducing harsh negativity. If a book falls down, it can stay there. If two students are talking, walk near them and make eye contact or invite them to tell a story.

So make your story and try it on a friend. Tell your story based on your sequence summary and time it. Observe the changes you make to your sequence summary and revise it accordingly. It’s better not to write your story in full because this makes it difficult to narrate.

What is your story?

By Dimitris Tzouris

Getting Business English Learners to Speak (Workshop) by Marjorie Rosenberg - Report

Marjorie started her workshop by emphasizing that effective business communication is a must for anyone in the business world: negotiations, telephone conversations, presentations, small talk - no wonder that a lot of students doing business English courses today, focus on developing their speaking skills. As Marjorie noted, most learners face certain fears, such as making mistakes, not being able to get their message across, and other problems, such as pronunciation, the wrong use of register, and lack of vocabulary. She went on to emphasize the importance of building our students’ self-confidence and helping them with the language use by providing lots of practice and simulated situations. 

In the second part of the workshop Marjorie shared some wonderful ideas with us of how to get learners to speak without fear. The first was an information gap activity. We were divided into A-B pairs and sat back to back, with student A looking at the whiteboard and students B looking at the back of the room. Students A described a picture they saw on the board and students B had to draw it. It isn’t that easy, as it turned out, when speakers don’t see each other – almost all of us couldn’t help but use gestures, even though we knew the other person couldn’t see us. The activity, which was much fun, is an excellent practice for practicing Present Continuous and Present Simple Tenses as well as for developing telephone skills, giving instructions and asking for clarification, especially for the learners who are not auditory types.

One of the most useful skills for business people is being able to sell. In the next activity, Marjorie provided us with useful sales phrases, some of which were direct and forceful, while some others were more subtle and asked us to choose any object in class and try to “sell” it to our partner. We had the chance to try out hard and soft techniques used in salesmanship and decide for ourselves what phrases worked and what didn’t.

Another wonderful activity doesn’t require any preparation for the teacher but at the same time gives students a lot of practice. Marjorie asked if there was anybody in class who knows a lot about a topic. There was a lovely lady there who was an expert on nutrition. Then Marjorie asked some of the other people in the class to write questions that had to do with nutrition. Then the lovely ‘expert’ had to give a short talk of 1-2 minutes and answer each of the questions. As we could see, the activity develops the ability of using language on the spot and thinking on one’s feet, both of which are so crucial in real life situations when presenters have to deal with follow-up questions and what many of them fear. 

These are just some of the activities we did in the workshop. As can be seen, the activities provide a lot of practice and aim at improving not only the language but communication skills in general. You don’t teach business English? The activities can be easily adapted for any speaking class, making the practice of English truly perfect. 

By Lana Lemeshko

Is Anybody Listening? (Workshops) by Ken Wilson - Report

It was a delight to take part in Ken Wilson’s workshop with suggestions on listening comprehension activities.

In the beginning of his talk he explained that there are three kinds of listening for the students:

- Listening to the teacher

- Listening to a machine 

- Listening to other students

Students usually appear to listen to the teacher, but how can we make them listen to each other?

The first activity combined pictures, speaking and listening as well. We were divided in to groups of five people, turned around to face a wall and each one had to turn around to see a picture, which was different each time. We then had to discuss with each other how these words were combined and find the word that represented all of them

The second activity included writing. We had to write a sentence beginning with “I want to” . We then went around telling people what we “want” and the answer they had to give was: “I’m afraid you can’t”. We then had to ask “Why not?” and the person we asked had to find an excuse. We had to get five different answers.

The third activity is called T-shirts.

Ken Wilson showed us five pieces of cryptic information about himself (names, numbers, places) and we had to guess what they meant. Afterwards we tried the same about ourselves. Our partner had to ask three Yes/No questions to try to find out what the facts were. 

Next activity: we had to stand in line in two groups. The first group had slips of papers with questions and the other group had the answers. They asked the question to a random person from the other team and had to notice the answers, so in the second time they had to find their pair answers.

Activity number 5 was called Where? When? How? We closed our eyes and listened to three pieces of music. After the first one, we had to write do the place that the music made us think of, after the second, a time of the year (spring, for example) and after the third, a means of transport. We then had to imagine that we had been to that place at that time by that means of transport, then mingle and find someone who had been to the same place at the same time by the same means of transport. 

The last activity had to do with a song. We got slips of papers with one line of the song and while we listened we had to stand in the correct order.

All in all, it was an amazing, informative and fun workshop. 

By Theodora Papapanagiotou

Storytelling in ELT: Hints and Tips to Make it Work (Workshop) by Alec Williams - Report

It was a cold and windy day - a perfect way to start a story and perfect weather for storytelling. We were sitting in a cosy room at the Alec Williams’s workshop and were completely absorbed in Alec telling us wonderful stories and how to tell stories and what to do with stories as a follow-up. 

So what does it take to be a good storyteller? A good storyteller should think of the ways not only to engage the audience but to make the audience participate. Choruses, animal noises, refrains, actions are great for children to join in. We should think of the ways to introduce a story – we could use a puppet or start a story by relating it to a personal experience. An absolutely essential tool in storytelling is our voice and what we can do with it. We could vary it in speed, pitches and volume and we could use different voices for different characters. It goes without saying that we should read through the story first so that we know who the characters are, where to use pauses for dramatic effect and where we can speak faster and If there are any unknown words that need to be explained in advance.
Photo by Margarita Kosior

In the second part of the workshop, Alec gave each of us the opportunity to become a storyteller. We were divided into groups of four or five people. Each group had to choose a story they liked most and retell it. It was very important that everyone in the group participated – we could take turns retelling a story assuming different roles or we could role-play it. There were some prompts on the whiteboard to help us but we were free to add more details to the story. We tried to use the techniques Alec was talking about – varying the voice, making pauses… It turned out telling a story can be as exciting as listening to it. Alec says stories develop a bond and affection between teller and listener – that’s so much true. By the end of the workshop we all seemed to be feeling closer and more connected. 

By Lana Lemeshko

Theatre: “All the World's a Stage: Celebrating 451 years of Shakespeare” - Report

With Luke Prodromou, David Gibson, Maria-Araxi Sachpazian and Aggeliki Markou

Luke and David do not need a special introduction. They are the famous “Dave ’n’ Luke” English Teaching Theater Group in the ELT world. Those of us who attended the 22nd TESOL MTh Annual International Convention had the great opportunity and pleasure to watch their latest work, “All the World's a Stage: Celebrating 451 years of Shakespeare.”

The play begins with two women on stage. They play the role of the narrator. They state that man's – or woman’s – life is like the theatre. Men and women play many parts in their lives. Different stages in life, different roles to play: infants, school children, lovers. At this point, Dave 'n' Luke's script does a clever twist and lures the audience into Shakespeare's time. Did women have the opportunity to become educated in Elizabethan times? Were they allowed to go to school? Another twist in the script is when the two narrators decide to find the information about women's education in Shakespeare's time on Google! It is a clear implication that Shakespeare's plays still appeal to the modern world and his views on human relationships remain up-to-date and relevant.

Photos by Efi Tzouri

And what does love have to do with the roles we all play in life? How is love seen in Shakespeare’s time? Romeo and Juliet, of course, are a famous example of ‘star-crossed’ lovers – young lovers whose parents disapprove of their choice of partner. The ultimate love story of all times. And the cue to move to the main part of the plot.

The Narrators say that a group of working men, members of an amateur theatrical group are gathered to rehearse another love story, “Pyramus and Thisbe”. The fact that the group consists only of men indicates that in Shakespeare’s time the roles of women in the theatre were played by men which is a significant sociopolitical and cultural element. Considering the idea that Dave ‘n’ Luke had to choose women for the role of the narrator the interpretation is clear. An evolution on gender perspective and performativity has occurred since then.

At this point, the narrators introduce the main characters of the story to the audience. Peter Quince, the carpenter, and Bottom, the weaver. Peter Quince is the director and Bottom is the actor. The cast is almost ready. Romeo and Juliet are going to be put on stage. All they have to take care of is the last details, the final direction and the props that they will use in the scenes.
Photo by Margarita Kosior

The great interest and educational value in Dave ‘n’ Luke’s play is how they integrate Shakespeare’s lines into their script and how they successfully convey their meanings to the audience in a mixture of Elizabethan and modern English. How interactively they use body language and movement in order to engage the audience in the action taking place on stage. Finally, how cleverly they use props like wigs, flowers and a torch in order to create the proper visual effect.

Last but not least, humour plays a very important role in Dave ‘n’ Luke’s script and along with elements of grotesque and exaggeration in articulation create a very entertaining and hilarious production.

By Efi Tzouri

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

TESOL Macedonia Thrace 2015 Pecha Kucha

Yes, we did it again!

PK Evening: the time when the TESOL MTh podium is reserved for the brave ;)

Congratulations to our PK presenters:

Using Interactive Whiteboards to Motivate Learners in English Language Teaching by Iakovos Delatolas-Saveris - Report

It goes without saying that many conditions are needed to learn a second language (L2) successfully, but most teachers and researchers would agree that motivation is one of the key factors that determine learning achievement. Interactive whiteboards are becoming more prolific in EFL classrooms around Greece and have the potential to have a significant impact on pedagogy. 

In his presentation Jake Delatolas-Saveris shared the results of his M.Ed. research in which he explores EFL teachers’ use of interactive whiteboards to motivate learners in English language teaching in Greece. A self-completion questionnaire had been designed, which allowed the researcher to gather data in field settings from 126 EFL teachers from various parts of Greece. The data collected were analyzed employing the IBM SPSS statistics 21 software.

According to the quantitative analysis of the questionnaires, the use of IWBs enhances motivation in the EFL classroom in line with the framework for motivational strategies proposed by Dörnyei (2001). 

Regarding creating basic motivational conditions, IWBs increase learners’ interest in class by making learning enjoyable and creating a supportive classroom climate. Moreover, IWBs reduce classroom anxiety as they render learning content less stressful and help learners learn in groups. 

With reference to generating initial motivation, IWBs whet learners’ anticipation of tasks since they make the content more visual and they make tasks more interesting by including novel elements. Besides, IWBs make learners acquire knowledge faster and make learning stimulating by requiring mental and bodily involvement. 

As far as maintaining and protecting motivation is concerned, IWBs create situations in which learners show their particular strengths and motivate hard-to-reach learners by giving them the feeling of making a useful contribution. Besides, IWBs relate the content of tasks to the learners’ interests and promote learner autonomy. 

Finally, as regards encouraging positive retrospective self-evaluation, IWBs not only help learners remember what they learn in class, but also increase learner satisfaction. In addition, learners are encouraged to try harder by being offered encouraging feedback through self-correction.

The researcher concluded his presentation by stating that technology in the hands of educators who have obvious pedagogic and learning aims can be a powerful ally in motivating learners and opening windows on the world of knowledge. Conversely, in the hands of teachers with a blurred idea of what their learners need to achieve, the use of technology can lead to a waste of time and effort in class. Educational technology can be an ideal vehicle to help learners develop their 21st century skills, such as creative and critical thinking skills, in the most enjoyable and productive way.

Changing the World Through New Leadership Skills by Dagmara Mathes-Sobocinska - Report

According to Dagmara Mathes-Sobocinska, English lessons should be more fun. Teaching proper grammar and preparing for exams is no longer good enough. Children do not have to feel the pressure of their parents in order to learn. They can actually enjoy learning and Dagmara explained to us how we can make it happen.

During her presentation delivered within the scope of the 22nd TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Annual International Convention with the title "Back to Basics", Dagmara talked about one of our most basic and inherent needs - the need to play. This is the philosophy behind Better Leaders Academy, the place where students learn English actively though games and role-play, instead of studying from the coursebook.

Dagmara is an advocate of using English as a tool, as a means, to teach emotional intelligence, leadership skills, good listening and speaking practices, rather than as an end in itself. All this is done through gamification.

Students love games because they are fun, they create suspense, and they help us relax. In terms of English language competence, playing games helps us develop the skill of communication.

Dagmara presented a specific example of a project in which her students got involved at the beginning of the year. It was a role-play during which the students became world leaders and in this way they used English to "solve world problems" and engage in meaningful language acquisition. Taking on roles helps shy students express themselves more freely and the new identity creates a safe environment in which they can express their thoughts without feeling embarrassed. Conclusion? When it is a game, people more easily participate. When a task acquires a meaningful context (e.g. saving a princess or flying into space), people get more easily engaged. Learning becomes an adventure in which students develop their English language, their skills, and their emotional intelligence too. For instance, cooperating with others requires the knowledge and skill of expressing anger without offending others, and children often do not know how to express their emotions. They learn that good relationships with others can only be maintained if we know how to be polite. The approach Dagmara presented to us teaches important life skills through English and English through important life skills.

Gamification challenges the traditional way of testing, grading and marking. It is important to involve game mechanics and game design techniques evolving around status and achievement. Students participate in a "quest" rather than complete an "in-class task" and are awarded a "token" instead of a "mark". This approach boosts the students' inner motivation to win the game (the course) and work additionally (do optional assignments). "We all love to play so why we think that the 19th century type of education should be capable of teaching the 21st century children? If you do not understand how gamification works you should look into Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card" Dagmara explains and recommends.

Overall, a very well-received talk with plenty of ideas and food for thought. It is time we changed some of our teaching practices. Teaching a foreign language is not enough. The content matters too.

By Margarita Kosior

The Teaching of Speaking in the EFL Classes of Greek State Junior High School by Niovi Hatzinikolaou - Report

Niovi Hatzinikolaou started her presentation with a brief introduction to her research topic explaining her focus on the teaching of speaking and on state school education. She expressed her belief that speaking tends to be a neglected skill which stresses the need for research into how it is administered in the context of the state school classroom and into what should be improved in the current practices. Niovi then went on to present to the audience the speaking aims which are reflected in the syllabus of the state school textbook. As most people attending the talk were state school EFL teachers, this was not new to them. After outlining her research aims and giving some information about the data collection procedures (interviews, observations, syllabus evaluation), Niovi moved to the result part. She showed some quotes from interviews with the teachers where they seemed to agree on the priority of teaching speaking and enabling learners develop spoken fluency. According to the results, however, the teachers rated the effectiveness of textbook speaking activities very low and had a number of concerns about the design and the relevance of the material to real life situations. They also admitted that they supplement activities where needed to achieve their aims. 

Later on, Niovi presented the audience with her classroom observation schedule and explained the procedure she had followed to record the teacher practices in real time. Before coming to what she observed, the presenter showed to the audience two speaking activities taken from the actual textbook and asked them to evaluate them themselves. The feedback was very interesting stressing both positive and negative aspects of those activities. A very obvious conclusion was a mismatch between syllabus guidelines (which reflects material writer’s policies) and actual practices. In other words, a mismatch between what is supposed to be done regarding speaking and what is actually being done. 

At that point, the presenter encouraged the audience to respond to and comment upon the observations. Being teachers themselves and maybe having experienced similar problems in the classrooms while teaching speaking, some of the audience had very strong views about what needs to be done for learning outcomes to be achieved. 

The session ended up with a very fruitful conversation about how teacher practices can overcome textbook boundaries including changes in the syllabus design and even a shift in the Ministry’s policy about teaching English. The positive feedback from the audience encouraged Niovi to conduct further research on the topic: "I was very glad to share my thoughts with practitioners and get a lot of different ideas on the topic which encouraged me (as some people also did) to take my research a step further. I really enjoyed my interaction with the audience and I really felt my topic was worth investing."

Interviewed by Christina Chorianopoulou

Coursebooks: What Good are They? By Dr Luke Prodromou - Report

The use of coursebooks in the ELT classroom is a rather controversial issue. Should we rely on the coursebook? To what extent? Or should we dispose of it altogether and create our own teaching materials? In his, as always, entertaining talk delivered at the 22nd TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece Annual International Convention, Dr Luke Prodromou engaged in a critique of coursebooks, presented a brief history of coursebooks which made us realize that coursebooks reflect an image of the times in which they were written, and discussed why some coursebooks are more successful than others and how some may even become all-time-classics, remembered for decades.

Concern about teaching and learning of foreign languages goes back a long way and has been marked by the emergence of diverse teaching methods and by the developments in the use of technology. However, the surprising fact is that, despite those long years and the many changes in teaching approaches, the content and structure of coursebooks has always included a core of similar components: grammar, vocabulary, functional dialogues, comprehension questions, and so on.

Should we dispose of the coursebook, then? The answer is "no". There are arguments in favor of coursebooks the existence of which we cannot deny. Well-researched modern coursebooks provide a clear lesson structure both for the teacher and for the learner; the content in modern books is often attractive, colorful and diverse; they provide graded content appropriate for the level of your students; they (sometimes) present interesting ideas; and, last but not least, they make our lives easier by saving us time and effort. A good communicative coursebook leaves room for students' self-expression and interaction, but also provides meaningful context and a wide choice of authentic materials.

Right from the start of his presentation, however, Dr Luke Prodromou emphasized that the coursebook should not be the only source of learning for learners.

The limitations of the coursebook are numerous. Many coursebooks seem to follow the same recipe with a similar design and following the same syllabus. The topics selected are still frequently Anglo-centric and the intercultural element is often missing. In other words, some authors do not take into account the fact that English is spoken not necessarily by native-speakers but by L2 users all over the world.. Dr Prodromou also discussed a rather lengthy list of taboo topics which are avoided in ELT coursebooks.

All this discussion led to reflection - and a question: what are the characteristics of a good teacher in relation to the use of the coursebook? It is easy to blame everything on the coursebook if the lesson does not go as planned. However, we should remember that the book should be just a starting point and each of us should add their own personal element to adapt the textbook and make it a really valuable tool. In this way, we will make the book come alive, we will breathe life into it, and our students will take pleasure in the process of learning.

By Margarita Kosior

Interviewed by Lana Lemeshko