REaChing for the stars
Empowering English Language Learners
Last Wednesday, October 3rd, I went to India to attend my first Asia TEFL international conference in Delhi, India. The conference was held at a beautiful hotel in Gurgaon, the Leela Kempinski. The conference was a bit overwhelming, with hundreds of delegates and a packed, confusing schedule, but, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet other professionals in the field of English as a foreign language (EFL) and linguistics from all around the world. I met delegates from Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, China, and other places around the globe. I learned a lot about how English is viewed and taught in other parts of Asia.
Some high-lights of the conference for me were meeting Dee Broughton, an English language fellow teaching in Gujarat, India, who shared a lot of insider information about English education in India and a passion for good PowerPoint presentation design. I attended her presentation on "International Communication in Academia: Joining the Conversation," where she gave a clear explanation of how she helps her students understand the process and content of academic writing.
I also enjoyed plenary speaker Catherine Walter's presentation on the role of grammar in the English language classroom and an inductive approach to grammar instruction. I attended the follow-up workshop and worked diligently with some Thai teachers from Rajamangala University of Technology in Lanna to construct an inductive grammar activity that could benefit our students using "can" vs. "able to."
Fiona Hyland led a valuable discussion on "Providing Effective Feedback on Student Writing," high-lighting a need for students to be involved in the feedback process, by drawing attention to areas they want teachers to focus on or using check-lists to review their own or peers' writing. Feedback should be constructive and encourage students to recognize their own areas of difficulty.
Other presentations I attended shared information regarding learners' reticence to speak English in Sri Lanka, teacher perceptions of team-teaching benefits and challenges in Japan and Korea, and extensive reading evaluation options. I also saw Tim Murphey speak for the second time, with his eclectic, multidisciplinary view of language learning.
In addition, I presented a workshop "Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach: Project-Based Learning in an Engineering English Class." I had six eager participants who enthusiastically completed a mini-project that I use in the Advanced English course at Kanazawa Technical College to teach students one of the basic concepts of computer programming, as well as the importance of clear instructions in teaching. The project asks students to program a domestic robot to complete one seemingly simple task. This and other projects like it make up the curriculum of a project-based course where the cumulative project involves technical college students becoming teachers of engineering in English at local junior high schools.
Lesson reinforced by the conference: