Tag Archives: conference

OUP Intensive Teacher Training Course, Budapest

To all those teachers who attended OUP’s summer intensive course and conference in Budapest last week, thanks for taking part and for all your positive comments about the sessions. As promised, you can have another look at the slides from all of my various sessions below.

Preparing to Speak

I gave this session to the secondary and adult groups. This was the one with the bit about ‘My grandmother always says’ – I think that particular idea deserves a blog post of its own. I’ll get to work on that next week. The session description reads like this:

In the first part of the session we will look at preparation strategies: looking at topics, vocabulary and exam tasks. We will also focus on effective practice procedures that help students improve as they practise. We will then consider the question of how to deal with grammar mistakes in speaking and consider some practical and engaging classroom practice activities that help students improve their spoken accuracy.

Recycling and Precycling Materials

I only did this session once – unfortunately. Recycling involves turning spent materials into something else; ‘precycling’ on the other hand involves reducing and re-using. I tried to apply these principles to the ELT classroom, thinking in particular about those lessons in which we try to revise, review or go over materials again – perhaps because we are substituting for a colleague. Much of the content of this session comes from a webinar that I did a while back about one-off lessons. I decided to pre-cycle a lot of those ideas 😉 The session description:

This session will look at some practical techniques for breathing new life into teaching materials and ‘squeezing more juice’ out of the coursebook. We will consider effective techniques for recycling materials – ideal for situations when you would like to revise, or if you have to cover for a colleague and need a stand-alone revision lesson. We will also find out what ‘precyling’ is – and look at some ways to apply it to the English teaching classroom.

Plenary talk: Getting the Hares back in the Race

I first did this talk at the IATEFL conference in Liverpool earlier this year and only about 25 people came :(. Anyway, I was really happy to get the chance to reprise it in front of a much larger audience. I added one new slide – the photograph of Darren in front of the BID board in Széchenyi tér in Pécs. The talk description went like this:

I have two types of teenage student. First, there are the tortoises. They feel slow and awkward. They need patience, encouragement and support. The second type are the hares. They are happy with their level of English – in fact, they are in a kind of comfort zone. They can speak well in class – when they feel like it. They watch films and TV series in English outside class without much difficulty. They like and value English. They just don’t want to spend time studying English in class. They would rather sleep!

Does that sound familiar? If so, here are some questions to consider. What is the best way to work with teenagers like this? How can we get them out of their comfort zone? Is there any way to help them rediscover their appetite for learning English? How can we get them back in the race?

Conference session: Back to the Future

Let me tell you a secret. I had been planning to do this session without any Power Point slides at all, just as a way of reinforcing the point I made in-session about the importance of resisting the temptation to allow technology to dictate what happens in our classes. In fact I didn’t even have a presentation prepared, just some typed notes and ideas for activities. Then, while having breakfast (!) on the morning of the conference, I saw that I could segue from the DeLorean sports car in Back to the Future to the Twin-Steer Car drawn by one of my students. By the time I’d had my second cup of tea, I’d decided to build the whole session around the Twin-Steer Car, and to use examples of students’ work (previously posted here on the blog) to introduce the activities. So in the end there was a Power Point – but it was very much a last-minute thing. The session description went like this:

Retro: taking yesterday’s trends and fashions and giving them a modern twist. In an era of breathtaking technological innovations in education, is there still room for retro in the English teaching classroom? This session will offer some practical teaching ideas inspired by the classrooms of yesteryear, but tweaked to appeal to the teenagers of today.

Feedback and comments welcome, as ever. Good luck with the tanévkezdés!

Poland: Beauty and the Piste

Poland – where winter still has the country in its icy grip. My travels are taking me to  Kraków, Nowy Sącz, Katowice, Tarnów, Rzeszów, Bydgoszcz, Toruń and Gdańsk.

Beautiful Kraków


Snowy Rzeszów


For those taking part in the PELT Convention in Rzeszów, the handout for my talk on ‘Using Literature with Teens’ is available here.

OUP Course and Conference, Budapest

Summer is finally over, but it’s been one to remember. As usual, OUP’s four-day intensive course and conference for teachers in Budapest at the end of August is the sign that the new school year is upon us, a warning bell of sorts for us to make plans and get prepared for the much-awaited (dreaded?) becsengetés. It’s always an encouraging sign to see how many teachers are willing to devote the last few precious days of August to professional development. It’s a real sign of commitment. Either that, or teachers are just desperate to get out of all those boring start-of-year staff meetings and fire-and-safety presentations. 🙂

A sad note this year was the news of the death of Headway co-author John Soars, whose materials have been extremely influential here in Hungary as well as around the world. Many teachers signed a card of condolence and paid personal tribute as well. One teacher wrote “Once I was a  Headway student; now I am a Headway teacher.” Few ELT coursebooks can have had such a sustained impact and influence. May he rest in peace.

The course itself was as good as ever. As well as morning sessions for the various groups, there were also afternoon plenaries. My own plenary was an updated version of the ‘Gates and Bridges’ talk. As promised, you can access a pdf copy of the slides here:  Gates and bridges Budapest

The conference on the last day was on the topic of images and videos. The keynote speaker was Images author Jamie Keddie, who gave two fantastic plenaries. I’m already looking forward to trying out a few of his ideas in class.

Good luck to everyone for the new school year!

Session at NYESZE Conference, Budapest

Engaging lessons with Headway iTutor

I wanted to think about how we can use the topics and materials from Headway to provide engaging and stimulating lessons for learners; lessons that not only provide them with the chance to practise and improve their English, but also with the chance to broaden their horizons and begin to think about some of the more exciting implications of being a young speaker of English in 2012.

The session zoomed in on one aspect of modern living in particular: multiculturalism and mixed-heritage families, a topic area that features quite strongly in the series, but especially in the video materials of the iTutor. I’ve tried these materials out both with my own students at Babits and with a group of students in Paks, and I’ve found the topic area lends itself extremely well to class discussions and also prompts students to contemplate how their own lives might develop in a multicultural direction.

The session contained a quiz, activities in connection with the listening and video materials from Unit 1 of the iTutor, and some examples of written work done by my students in response to the topic. I was pleased to see that my students’ views of mixed-heritage families were overwhelmingly positive, and that the importance of language learning was reaffirmed and validated by their comments. Whatever their future lives have in store for them, they are already clear in their own minds that knowing foreign languages will bring them closer to other people and other cultures. And that has to be good news.

The slides from the session in pdf format: Engaging lessons with Headway iTutor

Quiz answers: B A C B A B C A


My trip to Sofia was without a doubt one of the highlights of the year – a really enjoyable and memorable couple of days for a whole variety of reasons. It was my first ever trip to Bulgaria, where I was doing two sessions at the OUP Day National Conference in Sofia, together with Michael Swan and Gareth Davies.


There were about 350 teachers at the conference, which had been brilliantly organised by Milena Vladimirova and the rest of the OUP team in Sofia. Michael Swan was making his 19th (!) trip since August to promote his Oxford English Grammar Course. I’d been lucky enough to see his talk in Budapest and then again in Ljubljana, where it had gone down very well. It was no different here in Sofia.

I hadn’t seen Gareth since our first meeting in Lisbon two years ago, although we’ve stayed in touch regularly since then. It was great to work with him again. He did two excellent sessions – one on using Solutions to tackle the topic of culture, the other on using Headway to teach receptive skills. Both sessions were full of practical ideas for the classroom, which Gareth showed using the iTools, displaying an impressive technological dexterity on his part and a lot of coolness under pressure as he toggled between the slides and the program. His sessions were really well structured and gave me a lot of food for thought. I was impressed, for example, with the way he used his contacts on twitter to gain insights into what teachers think about the topic of culture. A great example of how twitter and PLNs can provide practical help not only for the teacher looking for classroom ideas, but for the trainer planning a session.

My own sessions were on using the Happy series to create a positive learning environment and on the Project approach. The teachers in Sofia were some of the most receptive and enthusiastic I have worked with, making the whole experience a pleasure for me. Heartfelt thanks to those teachers who got involved and helped make the sessions  so much fun. There is a link at the end where you can download the slides of my sessions in PDF format.

The funniest thing I saw in the conference hall was this sign, which Gareth noticed and brought to my attention. I was a bit nervous before the conference, but it was a relief to know that the security measures meant that I was unlikely to be shot at! 🙂




There was just enough time for a short tour of Sofia  on Sunday morning. Beautiful weather and a long weekend meant that the capital seemed very empty, making the rich architecture of this diverse and historic city especially striking.

On the way back, Gareth and I even had a glimpse of how the real jetsetters get set for their jets, getting into one of the executive airport lounges at Sofia airport courtesy of Michael Swan, who graciously invited us in on his member’s card. A real gent. A lovely way to cap off a fantastic couple of days.

Teaching and learning with a smile

A Project Approach – a view from the classroom

OUP Christmas Conferences, Pécs and Budapest

One of the problems with  teaching is that it’s all too easy to churn out the same old stuff. Each new year brings a new set of students who are unfamiliar with our tired routines and unacquainted with the one about the little boy who sat down to write a letter to Santa Claus. It’s convenient in a way, too, of course – those yellowing handouts and good ol’ Christmas ideas still work a treat with the students long after we have stopped being able to enjoy them ourselves –  but there’s always a voice at the back of our heads urging us to come up with something new.  For me, it’s especially hard. I know that a lot of the teachers who attend the OUP Christmas Conference in Budapest are there every year, so I won’t be able to get away with reheating last year’s ideas and serving them up as marrons glacés: let’s face it, an old chestnut is an old chestnut. Each year I’m sure that this will be the year that I run out of ideas, and this year was no different, especially as I had to put together a separate plenary talk and conference session. O sweet Santa, help!




Anyway, it’s over now. After a lot of head-scratching, I’m relieved to say that another crop of Christmas-themed English-teaching ideas has been successfully harvested. Who knows what will happen next year, though?

Ben Wetz, author of English Plus, was the guest of honour this year, and it was great to meet him again and enjoy his talk and also his company.

I’m attaching a link to a pdf version of the slides for my talk ‘Working in a Winter Wonderland’, as promised. It ought to jog your memories – as well as reminding me whatnot to repeat next year 🙂

Working in Winter Wonderland

During the workshop in Budapest, someone asked me whether it was really true that I prefer to decorate the kitchen bin at Christmas rather than the tree. I confessed that it was, and added that my two daughters are willing accomplices. I offer photographic evidence, 2008 vintage 🙂