My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 9 – A Smorgasbord of Prezi, Metaphors, Drama & the Passive Voice

Wednesday, 21st March 2012, Glasgow Conference Centre.

IATEFL Day 2

The post-lunchtime fun started with Hakan Senturk’s ‘Zooming into the Reading Class- Prezi’ which combined an introduction tutorial of the use of Prezi (which was priceless to someone like myself who has never heard of the tool) with ideas and suggestions as to how to make Prezi work for a reading class.

Using a text about Vikings, Hakan suggests activating the students’ schema by show a part of a picture of a Viking ship as a prediction task. Since Prezi offers a view not unlike the zooming function of a camera, it allows the user to control the way the objects/pictures are viewed by swiftly zooming into the part specified by the user. This works well not just for the prediction task, but also while reading, where Hakan shows the audience how to zoom into the text to show the embedded answers, definitions and pictures planted cleverly there.

Suggesting that we start by experimenting with blank prezi documents (and not the templates), Hakan shows us step by step how to work ‘the camera/view’ on Prezi, demonstrating how Prezi is like a canvas on which we can place anything (text, pics, embedded vids, etc) and move them around. It is easy to upload and insert anything.  To lighten the mood and illustrate his point, he shows us an embedded video of the Muppet Show’s Vikings singing In the Navy on Youtube.

Aside from the teacher using Prezi to present reading tasks to students, Prezi can also allow participants to edit documents together and therefore can be used for class projects. When the Prezi presentation is done, you can even download, or embed it on your blog. For iPad users, there’s also a Prezi app.

Well done, Hakan! A convincing presentation! I’m off to experiment on Prezi now!

 

After Hakan’s presentation, a few of us Tweeters made our way towards my IH London colleagues – Richard Chinn and Marie Willoughby’s session, ‘Making sense with  metaphor in language teaching training’.

Starting by dividing the audience into 2 groups of trainers and trainees, and then asking them to complete the following sentences in pairs – ‘A training course is like…’ and ‘Trainers are like…’, Richard and Rie immediately make their point about how metaphors can create a relaxed and personalized atmosphere by making a serious or unfamiliar topic area more accessible and less intimidating, when they get tongue-in-cheek answers like ‘Trainers are like gods’.

Quoting Lakoff and Johnson as saying that we seek out personal metaphors to make sense of our experience in life, they explain that metaphors can be used with trainees to process their feelings and experiences during what might be quite an intensive training course, while allowing time for playful work. Also, metaphors provide a way of accessing the subconscious and the feeling that are occurring below the surface.

Thus, getting trainees to voice their thoughts and feelings in metaphors can help us better understand how trainees feel and this can better provide us with a way of guiding them to seeing things in a different light. A clear example of this was when one of Richard’s trainees who initially said ‘A teacher is an instructor’ ended up saying ‘A teacher is a facilitator’ by the end of his Celta course.

In this way, the use of metaphors can develop awareness of teaching and learning and also help address the trainees’ previous learning experience and their expectations. It can also help trainees deal with complex concepts by relating them to things and concepts that they are more familiar with.  In TP feedback, metaphors can depersonalize the ‘criticisms’ and enable people to explore the issues with feeling the sting of the ‘attack’.

The audience had some fun working out and relating some metaphors to different areas of the CELTA course and…

Finally, some tips about using metaphors:

  • Metaphors need to connect (emotionally) with trainees. Just because they understand a metaphor intellectually does not mean they feel it.
  • ‘To make a difference, we to reach the gut and touch the hearts of our participants’ (Malderez and Wedell)
  • Get your trainees to make their own metaphors – ones that they can connect to.
  • We all understand the world differently, and cultural factors and personal interest can hinder our understanding of metaphors.
  • Use metaphors by all means, but don’t overegg the pudding!

Richard and Rie’s presentation balanced theory and practice in a non-threatening yet useful way that inspired the audience to try implementing some of their ideas while maintaining a level of audience participation that was perfect for that time of the conference where we were all just starting to feel the tiredness creep in.

 

Another session I attended that was also pitched well to the fatigued conference goer was Eugene Schaefer’s ‘Teaching with Spontaniety : Using PDL in the classroom. Allowing the audience to close their eyes and relax was certainly a welcomed exercise after a long conference day as we were guided into drifting away into tranquility. An expert in the techniques of Psychodramaturgie Linguistique, Eugene this time showed us how ‘mirroring’ and ‘doubling’ could help learners to explore the language and to put the vocabulary they already know into coherent sentences.

In ‘mirroring’, the teacher pretends to talk to an imaginary object and the students mirror his actions and his words (intonation included). In ‘doubling’, the teacher sits behind the blindfolded student, sometimes offering a mask for the student as a symbol of recognizing that speaking in a foreign language can sometimes be like putting on a different mask and taking on a different identity. The teacher then tells the students to think of any word they feel like saying in the foreign language (Eugene uses German as an example here). The teacher now says words in response to the students’ words and the students can choose to repeat them or not.  In what seemed to me as techniques reminiscent of Community Language Learning, PDL adds a significant element of taking the students’ state of mind and psychological and emotional relationship with the new language very seriously and accommodates it to create a learning advantage.

 

The final session of the day for me was my colleague Danny Norrington-Davis’s ‘Don’t tell the police – they are not important’, where I overheard someone saying that this is definitely up for a ‘Best title of the conference’ award. The talk was certainly one of the best grammar talks too.

Ok, let me first admit…I had previously given  talk at IATEFL Brighton on Systemic Functional Grammar, and when Danny mentioned that (and our multiple conversations following last year’s IATEFL) as being one of the reasons he embarked on looking into this topic, I was beaming…so I might be biased…

When Danny’s students were asked for reasons why the passive is used, they often give the same abstract descriptions that they are fed from the coursebooks. Descriptions and rules such as ‘Because the doer is unimportant’ (Is the title making more sense now?). Such rules are not only hard to apply and make sense of, but also largely inaccurate. Yet, coursebook audaciously use the ‘royal we’ and the present simple tense (suggesting it is a FACT) when giving these rules, e.g. ‘WE use the passive to…’

As Batstone states, ‘Broad classifications bring a sense of security but we are being economical with the truth’.

Mentioning Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics where ‘given and new’ and ‘theme and rheme’ (of the Textual Metafunction) is used to explain the use of the passive, Danny expounds on the clash between pedagogic grammars, descriptive grammars, and real texts and contexts.

In order to make his point, Danny gets the audience to read a newspaper article in which an animal smuggler has been caught by the police. He then divides the audience up into journalists, police officers, and suspects, so as to get us understanding the perspective from which the newspaper article was written. Using such awareness-raising and consciousness-raising activities, learners would be able to consider the writer/speaker and the intentions or interests behind their use of certain tenses or language features (in this case, the passive).  The use of texts can guide students towards noticing why certain language is being used and renders the provision of generalized rules unnecessary and even simplistic. Ending his session with the suggested reading ‘Holistic Grammar’ by Rob Bolitho (ETP Issue 75, July 2011), Danny wows the audience into pondering over the valid points that he made about grammar teaching.

The resounding message that keeps getting air time this IATEFL conference:

Move away from over generalisations!

Use the discourse and the context and raise students’ awareness of how language is really used!

 

…There’s one more important talk on Day 2 coming up…watch this space…

…to be continued…

 

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Author: chiasuanchong

I am a freelance communications trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. With 13 years of experience training students from all over the world to communicate better in English (and in particular, Business English), I am also a professional blogger, materials writer and intercultural trainer.

7 thoughts on “My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 9 – A Smorgasbord of Prezi, Metaphors, Drama & the Passive Voice”

  1. I’ve been playing about with Prezi for a while… mainly trying to work out what the advantages are beyond the zoomy swirliness… I’ve got a post here about it: http://classroom201x.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prezi-vs-powerpoint/

    I suspect reading is a good application for it because you can simulate eye-tracking patterns to a certain degree. I’ve used it a bit for this, but maybe I need to investigate this more…

    The next thing I think could be interesting is a starting with a blank prezi… filling it up through the class, then revisiting and expanding topics seen… haven’t tried it yet and I’m not sure I’m confident enough about the interface – but it might work…

    1. Thanks for your comment, Phil.
      And it was certainly good to meet you yesterday and hear you talk about what you use Prezi for. It’s a completely new thing to me and I am still exploring its uses.
      Always good to know what other people use it for!

      C

  2. Thanks for sharing all this. I had my first private lesson the other day and it felt really, really tough. We went through uncountable nouns and, although we had great fun chatting about ice and grass and money etc, I spent the evening afterwards beating myself up over every little question my student had that I was unable to answer. It suddenly seems very pathetic to just answer “we’ll go over that in a different lesson” or “it’s just one of those rules we have to learn”.

    With regards to Prezi – I have seen it used in a non TEFL presentation, but there was a lot of unnecessary zooming and spinning that made me feel a bit disorientated. How was it used at IATEFL?

    1. Thanks for your comment, David.
      Like most things in life, as much as we want to be categorical and put things in neat little boxes, things are never so simple and it’s just best to deal with them in context, and appreciating their peculiar features as they arise.
      I suppose language and grammar is e same in that respect. We (both teachers and students alike) want some generalised simple rules to hold on to, but sometimes it’s better to show students examples of the language point in action, get students to notice the patterns and ‘feel’ how it’s being used, and allow for exploration.

      As for Prezi, there were quite a few presentations that were done in Prezi at IATEFL Glasgow, but the one in this post was the only one I attended that showed the audience how to use it and suggested ideas for its use in the classroom.

      Hakan is a very energetic and enthusiastic presenter, and for someone like me who has never used Prezi, and to be honest, isn’t often too adventurous with technology use (I’m a digital immigrant!), he managed to convince me to give it a go!

      C

  3. the use of prezi functions to aid reading is nicely done by Hakan Senturk and it is even more interesting for students to make a prezi of a text they have read. i hope to incorporate some elements of this soon.

    regarding grammar teaching of the passive Language Log has a nice post on it http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2922

    cheers
    mura

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