Thursday, March 30, 2023
It’s been quite the month. After what has felt like the longest term of our lives (erm, where were the bank holidays when we needed them?), we are reflecting on what we can take away from the conferences we’ve attended this month. When the buzz from these event fades, it’s so important to look through your notes and consider the information you most want to develop when it comes to your teaching. Of course, you are so overwhelmed with material at conferences, that it can be hard to remember exactly who said what and make sense of your notes, but it really IS worth finding the time to go through them with fresh eyes and seeing what you can use to help upgrade your teaching.
So, as we like to practise what we preach, we’ve gone through our notes and pulled out our top ten takeaways from the conference talks we’ve attended this year. We hope you find them as insightful as we do!
We absolutely loved having some scientific perspectives in the talks we’ve attended this year. Interestingly, science has deduced that delaying production when learning lexis may help learning. It has been hypothesised that producing language immediately after being exposed to it may have a negative effect because recognition and production are two overlapping cognitive functions. We also learnt that full integration of a word into our mental lexicon requires lots of passive exposure, instead of production, and then active retrieval. (Efthymia Kapnoula)
In class, we may think that giving ss the first letter or syllable when working on active retrieval helps them remember it and therefore creates stronger connections. However, studies have shown that cued retrieval (as in, us giving ss a hint) doesn’t make as much difference as we think it might. It doesn’t hurt, they conclude, but also doesn’t help that much either. (Efthymia Kapnoula)
As you have probably read before, sleep plays an essential role in word learning. It’s seems that the lack of external stimulation allows us to integrate the lexis and recent studies have even shown that learning words closer to sleep can help us remember them more easily. If this is the case, then perhaps students learn words better if they have afternoon classes than morning ones. (Efthymia Kapnoula)
On the hotly-debated topic of technology and learning, we learnt that studies show that you learn more from a person than you do from a screen. It was also concluded that the key to teaching is interaction (be it in person or via an online platform) and the main problem with learning through technology is that it’s increasingly passive. Basically, if you teach online, you have to make sure that the class is as interactive as possible to make it as effective as an in-person class. (Clara Martin)
Sometimes we forget that humans are hardwired to connect with other humans and that teaching is relational rather than purely instructional. Whilst we knew this deep down, it’s great to be reminded of the fact that we are actually teaching people and that we are, in fact, people too. It has been proven that we remember more about people and relationships than we do about abstract facts. (Antonia Clare)
Along the same lines as the previous takeaway, we discussed vulnerability in the classroom. Ben spoke to us about what we learnt from teaching in the pandemic, and one important aspect was that because everyone was in the same situation, we were somehow more vulnerable. This vulnerability helps us connect better with our students (because, remember, we’re human too) and we should try and show a more ‘real’ and vulnerable side to ourselves in order to get ss to feel more comfortable in the classroom. (Ben Goldstein)
Teacher burnout is real (for those who didn’t know already) and this was discussed in Antonia Clare’s talk. In the part of her talk about love + work, she concluded that we need to love 20% of our everyday tasks at work to enjoy what we do. The feeling that this 20% of love give us helps to avoid ‘quiet quitting’ which is becoming more and more widespread, especially in teaching. (Antonia Clare)
If we want ss to have a more open-minded view of the world, we need to encourage them to think more. This involved not just asking students what they see when they look at an image, for example, but what they think about it and how it makes them feel. We should try not to sugar coat what we use in class and try to be more inclusive, so that there is time for individual reflection. Learning languages, after all, should be about inclusivity. (Ben Goldstein)
We loved Chris Roland’s talk, and the phrase ‘The real work begins at the point where the correct answers have already been given’ really hit home with us. Often, we think of the correct answer as the end of a process of learning, but this is just the beginning. If we want ss to use the language and engage with it, they are going to need to see and hear it in many different situations and we, as teachers, need to provide ss with the opportunity to do this. (Chris Roland)
Teaching children and teens can be tough and sometimes it’s their energy level that can affect how they behave and how we manage the classroom. We learnt that allowing children and teenagers ‘2 minutes of madness’ in the middle of class, or between activities, can give them that much needed energy release or even burst of energy to get through the rest of the class. Use everything at your disposal for this and get creative with your classroom supplies to make it memorable. (Chris Roland)
There you have it- our top ten conference takeaways from this year. As we take a deep breath and look towards a very well-earned break before the summer term, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, fellow teachers, on getting this far and wish you good luck for the rest of the academic year. The end is in sight!