Form vs. meaning

checklist-1919292_960_720I’ve recently caught myself doing something very strange while teaching; throughout the lesson, in my mind’s eye, I check if the activity we are doing is predominantly focused on meaning or is more towards the grammar end of the spectrum. In other words, I’m the observer of my own lesson and I mentally tick off boxes as it proceeds. I think the reason behind my somewhat obsessive behavior is my previous posts on teaching principles.

Over years I’ve noticed that young learners will do whatever you want them to do if it’s interesting enough and fun. So if you start analyzing grammar in a humorous way, for example, they will listen. And they may even remember something from your talk. Still, most of them will be the happiest once you leave the domain of grammar and let them chatter away freely.

In September, I got a new group of teenagers. Since then I’ve already had plenty of time and opportunities to notice some of their strengths as well as weaknesses. They are hardworking, enthusiastic, and cooperate very well with me and one another. They have a decent knowledge of grammar (probably because their instruction was predominantly grammar focused in the past), but they aren’t very confident in speaking. They do chatter away happily when in pairs or groups, but sharing ideas in front of the whole class is a bit of a problem, especially if it is to be a coherent monolog.

I feel my job now is to non-violently lead them from the grammar end of the spectrum towards the other end, so to speak. But I don’t think I can achieve this abruptly – by abandoning grammar totally, for example. This would probably make them feel very unsafe and frustrated.

So first, I usually provide them with some solid base they can build on – vocabulary as well grammar – and then we gradually leave the ‘safe ground’ and start focusing on meaning and free practice.

Last time we talked about quantifiers. Most of the students were already familiar with this topic from their previous courses so I gave them a simple handout (see below) and threw them in at the deep end. I made the handout myself so that I was absolutely sure that there was only one answer correct (I gathered that at this stage, coming across exceptions would probably cause confusion, which I really wanted to avoid). I asked the students to complete the gaps and to consider the incorrect alternatives as well. I thought that by being able to decide which answer is correct and why the others are not, they would be able to fully grasp the grammar.

Circle the correct answer. There’s only one correct answer for each sentence. 

  1. I’ve got ….. friends. (some_any_a little_much)
  2. Have you got …. pets? (some­­_any_a little­_much)
  3. There isn’t ….. milk in the fridge. (any_many_a few­_some)
  4. There are ….. supermarkets in the town. (any_ a few_a little_much)
  5. I’ve got …. money. (much_a little_many_a few)
  6. I had …. problems at school. (a little_a lot of_any_much)
  7. Why do you have so …. mess in your room?! (some_much_many_a few)
  8. It’s a boring town. There isn’t …. to do here. (many_some_much_a few)
  9. We have so …. great teachers at school! (much_a little_many_any)
  10. There are …. good night clubs. (a little_any_some_much)

Then I elicited the rules and put them on the board. At this stage, the students looked happy and content because they had something tangible to hold on tho. This was only the first stage, though. Knowing the rules doesn’t mean one can apply them in meaningful communication. On the screen, I projected the following statements.

  1. Few people like poetry.
  2. Many Czechs are fat.
  3. A lot of students in this class listen to classical music.
  4. Some people in the class are very good at sports.
  5. It’s better to have no brothers or sisters.
  6. Teenagers shouldn’t get any pocket money.
  7. Pupils should get little homework at school.
  8. There isn’t much to do here in Šternberk.
  9. A few people in the class love maths.
  10. There’s a little pollution here in Šternberk.

I paired the students up and asked them to discuss the statements (agree-disagree). At this stage, in order to be able to complete the task, the students needed to understand the meaning of the sentences and the quantifiers themselves – not just how they work from a grammatical point of view. However, that was not the main goal; the main goal of this activity was to get students speaking. In some cases, they were forced to substitute the qualifiers, particularly if they wanted to disagree with a statement. The exercise was tailor-made to this particular group of students so I hoped they’d find it engaging. And they did. From my perspective, we had a lovely, meaningful, personalized discussion at the end of the lesson and I could happily tick off one of the boxes in my mind’s eye.

I’d like to add that with a different class, I might switch the order of the two activities and the timing would also be different. But with this class, I felt it would work best this way.

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Teaching by principles

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With some extra time on my hands, I’ve been re-reading a publication I once needed for my MA studies called Teaching by Principles by Douglas Brown (3rd edition), which, as the blurb states, offers a comprehensive survey of practical language teaching options.

In Chapter 4 of his book, Brown investigates 12 foundational teaching principles, or elements, which he considers to be at the core of language pedagogy. As I write, I’ll try to make occasional references to my previous post, i.e. to Ellis’s  Principles of Instructed Language Learning, because I’d like to see how much (if at all) these two systems overlap. And, as you read, you can determine the extent to which the principles are applied in your own teaching.

Cognitive principles: 

Principle 1: Automaticity

According to Brown, it is clear that small children learn languages without thinking about them – they learn them automatically. Thus overanalyzing an L2 and thinking too much about its forms is not the best way of learning it. To the contrary, this approach tends to impede the process of graduation to automaticity in an L2 classroom.

I associate this principle with Ellis’s Principle 4: Instruction needs to be predominantly directed at developing implicit knowledge of the L2 while not neglecting explicit knowledge. Implicit knowledge is procedural, is held unconsciously and develops naturally out of meaning-focused communication.

Principle 2: Meaningful learning

Brown maintains that rote-learning, i.e. taking in isolated bits and pieces of information that are not connected with existing cognitive structures, has little chance of creating long-term retention. Thus, when in the classroom, it is necessary to make meaningful associations between existing knowledge and new material.

As I see it, this is in compliance with Ellis’s Principle 2: Instruction needs to ensure that learners focus predominantly on meaning. I also see a connection with Principle 4 (see above). 

Principle 3: The anticipation of reward

Brown argues that human beings are universally driven to act by the anticipation of some sort of tangible or intangible reward. Thus an optimal degree of praise and encouragement or appropriate grades and scores are desirable.

Principle 4: Intrinsic motivation

However, the most powerful rewards are those that are intrinsically motivated within the learner. Brown adds that if all learners were intrinsically motivated to perform all classroom tasks, we might not even need teachers.

Principle 5: Strategic investment

Teaching methods, textbooks, and grammatical paradigms are no longer in the center of attention. It is the methods that the learner employs to internalize and to perform in the language that are important too. After all, successful mastery of L2 will be due to a learner’s own personal investment of time, effort, and attention to L2.

To my mind, principles 3, 4 and 5 to some extent overlap with Ellis’s Principle 9: Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners. 

Principle 6: Autonomy

Successful mastery of L2 will depend on learner’s autonomous ability to continue their journey to success beyond the classroom and the teacher.

This principle to a large extent links to Ellis’s Principle 6: Successful instructed language learning requires extensive L2 input. As I wrote in my previous post, it’s virtually impossible to provide L2 learners with a sufficient amount of input in the classroom so students’ autonomy seems to be the only way leading to ultimate success.

Socioaffective principles: 

Principle 7: Language ego

As human beings learn to use an L2, they also develop a new mode of thinking, feeling, and acting – a second identity. Their new ‘language ego’ can feel fragile, silly and sometimes humiliated when lacking words or suitable grammar structures. Thus it is necessary to overtly display a supportive attitude to your students.

I’d link this principle to Ellis’s Principle 5: Instruction needs to take into account the learner’s ‘built-in syllabus’. I personally try to achieve this by tolerating the learners’ temporary ‘flaws’ and by giving them plenty of opportunities to succeed. Also, there’s a  similarity to  Principle 9: Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners.

Principle 8: Willingness to communicate

Successful learners are willing to communicate, which results in the generation of both output (from the learner) and input (to the learner).

What immediately comes to mind is Ellis’s Principle 7: Successful instructed language learning also requires opportunities for output. As you aren’t likely to get output from stressed students, for example, you should make sure that the learning conditions and atmosphere in the classroom are favorable to spontaneous communication. Brown’s Principle 8 may also relate to  Ellis’s Principle 8: The opportunity to interact in the L2 is central to developing L2 proficiency and Principle 9: Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners.

Principle 9: The language-culture connection

Whenever you teach a language, you also teach a complex system of cultural customs, values, and ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. This can be a source of valuable language input and a powerful tool for adjustment in new cultures. However, Brown advises us to be sensitive if some students appear discouraged.

Again, here I can sense a connection with Ellis’s Principle 6: Successful instructed language learning requires extensive L2 input. I’d add that culture is inherently present in any language and you can’t separate language from culture if you want to communicate in the target language successfully. I think I clearly demonstrated this in one of my previous posts, where I contrasted phrases ‘I’m good’ and ‘I’m fine’. 

Linguistic principles: 

Principle 10: The Native language effect

The native language of learners strongly influences the acquisition of the target language system. Brown advises teachers to regard errors as important windows to their underlying system and provide appropriate feedback on them. What also helps students to minimalize interference errors is thinking in the L2 instead of resorting to translation as they comprehend and produce language.

Here I see a connection with Ellis’s Principle 9: Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners. If you teach a mixed nationality class, you’ll probably have to treat diverse types of errors. I wrote about the native language effect here and here on my blog. 

Principle 11: Interlanguage

Just as children develop their native language in gradual, systematic stages, L2 learners, go through a systematic developmental process as they progress to full competence in L2. This means, for example, that at some point, a good deal of what an L2 learner says or comprehend may be logically correct, but from the point of view of the native speaker’s competence, it’s incorrect. Teachers should allow learners to progress through such systematic stages of acquisition. Also, when giving feedback, the teacher needs to distinguish between systematic interlanguage errors (these can be tolerated to some extent) and other errors.

Principle 11 seems to overlap with Ellis’s Principle 5: Instruction needs to take into account the learner’s ‘built-in syllabus’.  As a teacher, one can’t simply skip or hasten certain stages of the learner’s development, or eliminate systematic interlanguage errors completely. 

Principle 12: Communicative competence

Given that communicative competence is the goal of an L2 classroom, teachers should give attention to language use and not just usage, to fluency and not just accuracy. Give grammar some attention, but don’t neglect the other important components. Make sure that your students have opportunities to gain some fluency in English without having to be constantly wary of little mistakes.

This seems to encompass at leat five of Ellis’s principles: Principle 1: Instruction needs to ensure that learners develop both a rich repertoire of formulaic expressions and a rule-based competence, Principle 2: Instruction needs to ensure that learners focus predominantly on meaning, Principle 3: Instruction needs to ensure that learners also focus on form, Principle 4: Instruction needs to be predominantly directed at developing implicit knowledge of the L2 while not neglecting explicit knowledge and Principle 8: The opportunity to interact in the L2 is central to developing L2 proficiency.

Although the authors complement one another, Brown’s perspective seems to me more general and encompasses a slightly larger spectrum of (language) pedagogy. The connections I made between the two sets of principles were based solely on intuition and others may see it differently.

 

 

Posted in Education, Feedback, Grammar, Linguistic issues, Professional development, teaching principles, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Ten Commandments of Successful Language Instruction

stock-photo-child-with-rucksack-standing-on-a-stack-of-books-64626691Throughout 2016, I’ve read a lot about how much the current ELT practice flies in the face of SLA research findings. I usually dismiss these assumptions straight away – probably because personally, I’ve never felt too guilty as an ELT practitioner. I mean, I think I know something about the contribution of the SLA research to developments in TESOL over the last five decades, and I do my best not to be blind to it. Although in my teaching context, which I would describe as standardized education (meaning standardized level, pace, and path of learning), my hands are tied to a certain extent, I don’t despair.

The other day, I came across this article by Rod Ellis called Principles of Instructed Language Learning, in which he shares a set of generalizations which, he believes, might serve as the basis for language teacher education. When reading the text, I lit up. It’s not all that bad after all given the limitations I have to deal with on a daily basis, of which the lack of time is the worst of all shortcomings. I can conclude now that there’s not a single principle I would consciously ignore.

Principle 1: Instruction needs to ensure that learners develop both a rich repertoire of formulaic expressions and a rule-based competence. 

Although I don’t avoid the focus-on-forms approach, I believe that my instruction is not exclusively directed at developing rule-based competence through the systematic teaching of pre-selected structures. My students would probably confirm (with a slight sneer on their face) that I’m moderately obsessed with grammar and totally obsessed with formulaic chunks.

Principle 2: Instruction needs to ensure that learners focus predominantly on meaning. 

I’m well aware of the fact that to meet this principle, task-based approach to language teaching is one of the prerequisites. Also, it is important that instruction provides opportunities for learners to focus on semantic meaning (meanings of lexical items or of specific grammatical structures) as well as pragmatic meaning (the highly contextualized meanings that arise in acts of communication) and, as Ellis argues, it is pragmatic meaning that is crucial to language learning. Although I do try to incorporate communicative tasks into my lessons whenever possible, I’d say that TBL approach is something I still tend to circumvent. Why? It’s a question for another post.

Principle 3: Instruction needs to ensure that learners also focus on form. 

This, among other things, involves a response to the errors each learner makes. In my context, I often practice this through collected feedback, i.e. feedback I give a group of students on selected linguistic issues I spot in their writing/speaking. I like this approach as it’s individualized and emergent.

Principle 4: Instruction needs to be predominantly directed at developing implicit knowledge of the L2 while not neglecting explicit knowledge. 

Ellis argues that instruction needs to be directed at developing both implicit and explicit knowledge, giving priority to the former (because we don’t know how easily/if at all explicit knowledge can be converted into implicit knowledge). While the benefits of explicit knowledge are somewhat controversial, there is a consensus among researchers that learners need the opportunity to participate in communicative activities to develop implicit knowledge. Thus, communicative tasks need to play a central role in instruction directed at implicit knowledge. I can boldly claim that communicative activities have always been central to my classes. It was only recently when I started gravitating towards a slightly more focus-on-form approach as I was no longer comfortable with the zero grammar strategy.

Principle 5: Instruction needs to take into account the learner’s ‘built-in syllabus’. 

One way to do this is to ensure that learners are developmentally ready to acquire a specific target feature. Like the zero grammar approach, this is not very feasible in my teaching context. There is a national curriculum I need to follow plus I’m also required to assess my students formally. So I give those students who struggle with specific linguistic features other opportunities to succeed (little tasks, extra projects, etc.) since I know most of them will finally catch up on all the required skills and knowledge.

Principle 6: Successful instructed language learning requires extensive L2 input.

This is a real stumbling block. With three or four 45-minute lessons a week you’d have to be a magician if you wanted to help your students march out of the classroom with native-like proficiency.  So I assume it’s more about showing them how to make it on their own – about giving tips for online places to go, books to read, methods to apply, etc. Because if you are supposed to a) give them tasks, b) present lots of chunks of language and some grammar, c) provide opportunities for meaningful communication, then there’s not much time left for extensive input while in class. Fortunately, these days it is practically impossible to avoid English in everyday life so most students will probably manage quite well when left to their own devices.

Principle 7: Successful instructed language learning also requires opportunities for output.

While I’m somewhat concerned about the previous principle, I’m very confident about number 7 – simply because I know my students produce a lot of language in the classroom. As I said, my students come with bits and pieces they pick outside of school, which we can then work with and elaborate on.

Principle 8: The opportunity to interact in the L2 is central to developing L2 proficiency.

Ellis maintains that we can achieve this by a) creating contexts of language use where students have a reason to attend to language, b) providing opportunities for learners to use the language to express their own personal meanings, c) helping students to participate in language-related activities that are beyond their current level of proficiency and c) offering a full range of contexts that cater for a ‘full performance’ in the language. The last one is something I feel I need to focus on a bit more. I suspect that it is closely related to TBL, which, as stated above, I need to apply more in my teaching.

Principle 9: Instruction needs to take account of individual differences in learners.

This is a problematic one, especially in a standardized teaching context, as discussed above. However, I can still do (and I think I do) a lot as a teacher: pair/group students up in a manner that fosters cooperation, find ways to motivate weaker/slower students (especially intrinsically) and find as many opportunities leading to success as possible.

Principle 10: In assessing learners’ L2 proficiency, it is important to examine free as well as controlled production

At times it seems that it’s much easier to assess controlled production. However, I’ve recently come across many poorly designed tests, which, for example, accept one correct answer for each question when there are more appropriate alternatives. One may argue that it opens some space for discussion, but I think that at the same time, it discredits the test itself. Assessing free practice is primarily about acknowledging the fact that the student managed to get the message across. In such a case, he or she always deserves a decent grade regardless of grammatical mistakes, for example.

What about your instruction? Is it based on solid research or folksy wisdom? 🙂

Posted in Education, Feedback, Grammar, Linguistic issues, Professional development, teaching principles | 5 Comments

An excerpt from a new (revolutionary) coursebook

Unit 1  – Meeting people

At the café

20160721_104527

Hana Tichá, a non-native teacher of English, enters the room merrily: Hi, everybody! How are you?”

Mike Cattlin, a slightly older northern Brit (according to his own words), greets Hana enthusiastically, waving his hand: “Hi, Hana! I’m fine.” 

Michael Griffin, an American currently based in South Korea, looks up from his black coffee and smiles broadly: Hi, Hana. I’m good. Nice to see you again.”

Anthony Ash, a Brit from the north of England, turns to Michael, a little concerned: Oh, what’s the problem, Mike?”

Michael G.: Nothing. Why?” 

Anthony.: Well, I thought you meant life sucks cause you just said: ‘I’m good’.”

Hugh Dellar, also British, shakes his head: No, no. It’s a perfectly standard expression meaning ‘I’m fine’.” 

Joanna Tsiolakis, from sunny Greece, sips her café latte happily and nods in agreement: “Absolutely. A typical response.”

Bruno Leys, from the land of chocolate and lovely beer, adds confidently: Yeah! I can hear myself saying it a lot.” 

Katy Fagan, from the eastern US, reacts somewhat cautiously: Well, it actually sounds a tiny bit awkward to me when responding to a greeting, but …”

Michal Siegel, a former student of Hana, overhears the conversation on his way from the restroom. Being a keen linguist, he can’t help jumping in: “Excuse me, but as far as I know, ‘I’m good’ is being used when something, e. g. an accident, happens and the person is okay. Then he says ‘Don’t worry, I’m good!’ But to the question ‘How are you?’ he should say ‘I’m fine, thank you!'”

Hana: Wait, guys. It gets a little confusing now.  I’m an EFL teacher, you know. What am I supposed to tell my students? They want to know *the right* answers … 

Oh, look, that’s my former boss over there at the bar. I haven’t seen him for ages. Hi, Petr!” 

Petr: “Hi, Hana. How are you?” 

Hana: Erm….. I’m ……”

Marc Jones, a young Brit based in Japan, quickly whispers to Hana’s ear: It’s your *boss*. Not a *mate* of yours, right? So you should say: ‘I’m fine’.”  

Hana: I’m fine. And you, Petr?” 

Petr, slowly emptying his glass of vodka: I’m good. Kill me now!” 

 

Hana: Well, erm, I‘d better catch the waiter’s eye. I bet you’re all starving?”

…….. 60 minutes later

 

Hana: “Would you like anything else before I foot the bill?” 

Katy: I’m good. Thanks.” 

Mike C.: “No, thanks. I’m fine.” 

Peter Skillen, a fellow from Canada: No, thank you, I’m good.” 

Hana (to herself, somewhat desperately): Damn it! Do they really mean what they are saying? Or do they mean the opposite? How on earth should I know what these people are thinking?”  

 

Some of you probably know where this post came from. 🙂  I’d like to thank all my Facebook friends who kindly and patiently answered my questions regarding this linguistic issue. Their diverse responses inspired this article (which, of course, is not an excerpt from a new, revolutionary coursebook) and showed, once again, that English is evolving much faster than we realize. By the way, I hope I got all the nationalities right. If not, let me know.

An important note: My former boss, Petr, never drinks vodka and you can never come across him at a bar. 🙂

 

 

 

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A little *thank you*

I’ve recently learned from my WordPress statistics tracker that the largest proportion of visitors on my blog is based in the Czech Republic. This discovery was a big surprise for me because most of the interaction that happens here is initiated by teachers outside of the Czech Republic. Apparently, Czechs like to be what I call ‘bystanders’ – they visit my blog but rarely feel the need to leave a comment.

 

vystrizek

The little orange spot in the middle of Europe is my native land

 

The truth is, though, that I’ve lately had several face-to-face conversations with fellow teachers, friends, and former students, who told me that they visited my blog regularly. I was really excited to hear this since I gathered that my blog was exclusively read by my online community and complete strangers.

However, this finding also had an unusual effect on me – I suddenly felt more responsibility for the content of my blog. I mean, these people know me personally so what if they feel my writing doesn’t quite correspond with reality or with what I actually do. What if my posts give the wrong impression? Or even worse, what if something I share offends somebody? The thing is that I sometimes exaggerate and overstate to make a point so my articles may not always be interpreted correctly.

Nevertheless, I was very pleased the other day when a colleague of mine described how she felt after reading one of my somewhat controversial posts. Her description perfectly matched the effect I had intended when writing it. She uncovered all the layers, appreciated the humor but the overall impression, as she put it, was sadness. Then she gave me some valuable feedback and asked me lots of questions, such as how long it usually takes me to write a post or if I consider it a kind of therapy. Needless to say, she hit the nail on the head; blogging is a wonderful way of relaxation.

So, it seems there are two types of interaction here on my blog – with the people who drop a line now and then and with those who talk to me in person. Both audiences are very dear to me and this post is a way to thank them for being here for me and with me. Finally, I’d also like to thank all those ‘invisible’ viewers, who I only know about from my statistics tracker, and who, for whatever reason, took the time to click the link …

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Learning more than the content ….

20160928_113031This is an ordinary post – no point, no climax. Just a description of what happened in class.

The other day my youngest students were doing a project called My Favourite Animal/My Pet. I asked them to include lots of text and some hand-made illustrations or other visuals. I handed out two types of bilingual dictionaries and I also encouraged them to feel free to come to my table and use my PC if they struggled to find some words in the paper dictionaries. On the computer, I opened two tabs – a bilingual dictionary and Google.

Very few actually ended up using the paper dictionaries; there was a long queue in front of my computer instead. I noticed that some of the students had trouble working with the online bilingual dictionary so I tried to help whenever I could. For example, I showed them that they can listen to a word’s pronunciation and thus remember it better. Honestly, I had assumed that they were familiar with such things already but apparently, I was wrong.

One girl wanted to find the English equivalent for a Czech word (a name of an animal). We used all the bilingual dictionaries but found no entries of such a word. Then I revealed a trick I sometimes use with names of animals and plants – I look up the Latin expression first and then it’s much easier to find the English one. With this method, we finally managed to find the word okapi.

Some students used the Google option a lot, mostly to look up pictures of animals they were planning to draw. One boy, however, came up with a tweak. He opened the Google Translate tab to look up longer expressions. The thing is that I’d forgotten to tell the students that it’s difficult to find two-word expressions in a bilingual dictionary so some of them ended up a little confused. However, the boy immediately gave a hand to everybody who’d failed to find a phrase or a longer expression. Ironically, this boy is often criticized for using his mobile too much – during breaks as well as in lessons. The truth is though that he proved to be more tech savvy than the rest of the class, which, of course, is the result of him spending a lot of time online.

So apart from practicing their English, especially their writing skills, the students hopefully learned some other important skills, which they can use later in the course.

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My hopes and fears

Some of you may know that I’ve recently posted this on Facebook:

vystrizek

I was astonished by the enormous support I instantly got from my PLN and friends from all around the world.

Strangely enough, it was not long ago (precisely October 28) when I wrote about the reasons behind my refusal to become a conference presenter. In today’s post, I’d like to share some of my fears and hopes I have now that I’ve finally accepted the offer. So here goes.

What if …

my topic is not interesting enough to attract an audience? I’ve been attending local conferences for some time now and I know that their regular attendees have already heard and seen loads of interesting stuff. Also, the teachers come on a Saturday, many of them from far away places, to be inspired. This obviously makes me feel a lot of responsibility.

I don’t appear interesting enough to attract an audience? Well, I may be the same old face on social media but that doesn’t mean that local folks know my name. So while some of my PLN would definitely turn up (out of sheer curiosity or to support a newbie presenter), the people who attend this conference may not feel like wasting their precious time listening to some secondary school teacher slash blogger.

things go wrong? I’ve been a teacher for more than two decades so I know all too well that there are lessons which go wrong for no specific reason. It just happens and it always fills me with bitter disappointment. Surprisingly, this sometimes happens when I ovedo it or when I overprepare. By the way, as this is my first workshop, I’m definitely planning to go low-tech. And I think I’ll actually go very ‘light’ in all respects.

my timing is all wrong? The workshops last for an hour. This may turn out totally unimportant, but over time, my brain has adjusted to slightly shorter units – of 45 minutes. Also, as I have no idea whatsoever how many people will finally turn up for my workshop (the attendees don’t register for the individual workshops in advance, which, by the way, I always considered an advantage), I can’t tailor make the content to a specific number of attendees. This leaves me with a number of unknown variables, such as the number of photocopies, the number of chairs, the shape of the seating arrangement and the shape of the activities themselves (pairs, groups, mingling, etc.). This may easily disconcert me and eventually add more pressure or even cause some confusion during the workshop.

I make mistakes? I know this sounds almost ridiculous, but yes, this is also one of my concerns. The sky won’t fall in if you make a mistake in a regular class (your mischievous students will let you know instantly anyway), but it must be terribly embarrassing when it happens to a conference presenter (cause conference presenters are supposed to be flawless, right? 😀 ).

Anyway, I’m an optimist and I think I can make it because

  • I have plenty of experience with classroom management and teaching in general so I can improvise and multitask.
  • Conference audiences are usually very enthusiastic, compassionate and understanding. (I’m convinced that teenagers, for example, are much more challenging).
  • I know the place very well and I know how things work there – at least from the outside.
  • There will be lots of familiar faces, which is one of the highlights for me.

What do you think? Are my concerns justified? Did you feel the same before your first workshop/webinar? Thanks for reading and all the support.

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