Welcome to the ELT Digest for December
Welcome to the ELT Digest. This is the third of our end-of-the-month roundups. We’re sharing what we enjoyed in December, what we’re looking forward to in the coming months and recommending some non-ELT content. If you missed November’s edition, check it out here.
December has, even by 2020 standards been a really busy one for us. As a result, we haven’t attended as many events or consumed as much ELT content as we’d like. As a result, this month’s roundup is a little bit shorter and a little more focused on events than we’ve organised than usual.
Early in December, Tim was involved in organising an excitELT online conference about world Englishes and English as a lingua franca. This was the largest excitELT event so far with over 150 people and had some really interesting talks. If you missed it, there’s a playlist of videos on YouTube where you can catch up.
Talking Shop events
This month we ran two events. The first one was a talk from Tim about conversation. This session broke down the specifics about what conversation is, some issues that make conversation tough for language learners and steps teachers can take to improve conversation in their classrooms. We recorded the session and you can check it out here.
Our second event was a festive hangout with Rhiannon Carter. After exchanging some truly terrible puns, we asked Rhiannon ‘What’s going on with you these days?’ and had a discussion about freelancing, time management and what we had learned in 2020.
This month Tim finally got around to listening to the Unstandardised English podcast. Tim usually listens to podcasts to relax more than to inform himself, so a podcast about racism in language and language teaching usually wouldn’t fit the bill. However, JPB Gerald is a great host who manages to talk about serious and academic topics in a very conversational way. The issues in this podcast are things that most teachers should know more about and we couldn’t recommend this podcast more.
ELT Workshop Events
The ELT workshop won’t be having a ‘second Sunday of the month’ event this January as we both take some time off after a very busy year. However, later on this month on the 27th, we’ll be holding a ‘What’s going on with you these days’ session with Sarah Priestley. These have been really fun sessions to run (see the video above) and are a particularly nice thing to do in this time where it’s so hard to meet other teachers face to face. We will send out more details and a Zoom link closer to the date.
We are currently looking forward to CamTESOL. This is one of our favourite conferences because of its amazing location in Phnom Penh and the great mix of interesting and engaged people who attend. This year the conference is going to be online, so while we won’t be sipping mai tais on a roof in one of our favourite cities, we’ll still be in attendance and enjoying talking to other teachers.
Mike submitted two abstracts for CamTESOL and was happy to have both of them accepted. The first session was about beliefs related to online learning; a session he will now be doing as an ELT Workshop online session in the near future. The second will look at sources of task difficulty. In the session, we will consider some factors that tend to make tasks too difficult for students. In addition, participants will read and discuss vignettes written by teachers from around the world regarding incidents when the teachers, as students, were faced with overly challenging tasks. These incidents will be analyzed and used to create a checklist of potential sources of task difficulty. Readability, cognitive load, task clarity, and a lack of models will be highlighted. Ideally, by the end of the session participants will be able to articulate key factors that might hinder their students’ performance on tasks and will be able to state action plans for their own scaffolding of tasks in the future.
If you’d like to join us at CamTESOL, you can sign up at the early bird rate here.
Content Consumer Corner
Tim has spent a lot of time over recent years complaining about how bad British TV is compared to American TV. This month Tim has been eating those words as two of his favourite TV shows this year came out in December and both were British productions. ‘Industry’ and ‘I May Destroy You’ are both very binge watchable dramas set in London. They’re also both grown-up shows that deal with serious issues. That said, they’re both fantastic shows if you’re into that sort of thing.
On a note related to great American TV, Mike finally got around to reading ‘All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of the Wire‘. It was a fascinating behind the scenes look through the process of creating one of our favorite shows ever. To somehow relate it to ELT we could say that it was interesting to see how the (co) creator David Simon continually had to fight to ensure that his vision for the show was followed and he had to convince HBO that the show was worth continuing especially when it was a critical but not exactly financial success.
Finally, we’re once again recommending an unexpected bit of music that the YouTube algorithm has recommended to us. This mixtape of Japanese Jazz from the ’70s is great to work to because it’s upbeat and doesn’t have any distracting lyrics. Enjoy!
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Hey Tim! Just watched the session on conversation, thanks for sharing the recording! I totally agree with explicitly teaching these micro-skills, like back channeling, turn-taking, changing topic, etc. I liked Jedrek’s comment that your approach is more scientific! Very rich! Sure, some elements can be transferred from L1, or acquired by getting repeated exposure eg watching series but I would definitely argue it’s a lot faster to teach them in class/ train learners to master them. Love Thornbury’s Conversation book, it also helped me understand how to teach conversation properly. Cheers for sharing!