Which Route to Take??!     A Lot of Food for Thought from Scott Thornbury Plenary Birmingham 2016

     I really enjoyed listening to Scott Thornbury’s Plenary talk for a second time after IATEFL was over!! The Spirit of the Conference is still in the air with a lot of sessions and interviews to follow!!

     Scott started his talk with the 1966s and how linguists and educationalists gave great importance to teaching grammar and following rules without giving enough importance to ‘Communicative Competence’. He gave examples of linguists who tried to go against this trend as Dell Hymes who divided learning the language into:

n  Sociolinguistic competence
n  Linguistic competence
n  Strategic competence

While New Mark called for not teaching bits and bits of language. “Language is learned a whole act at a time not an assemblage of tasks”. Followed by Pit Corder who said that “language is not knowledge, but a set of skills”. Also Asher came forward introducing the idea of Total Physical Response.

       Yet these ideas were contradicted by linguists like Bruce Pattison in 1967 Plenary of ATEFL saying “The much publicized revolution is not a leap forward, but a regression into routine and dullness.” We could also hear people speaking about training students “to learn by making as few mistakes as possible”.

        These ideas went to and fro until the call for ‘Communicative Language Teaching’ started to appear by 1971 with Postman and Weingartner, Chris Candin, Savignon, Widdowson……etc. This was followed by a mix of the two trends during the following years, yet the sounds for ‘Communicative Language Teaching’ became louder and more acceptable.

       Here Scott started attracting our attention to a fact that we need to “rebrand what we do as ‘educational’…… We can’t forget that we are part of the bigger field of education.” Teachers should not be turned just into service providers, suffering from the fact that they have to train students how to pass tests. Publishers as well need to be looking into the real needs of Students not just to think that they think they only want to learn about grammar.

      As a final conclusion, Scott summed up the whole situation of teaching English into Three Routes:

1.                 Pragmatic Route
            Listen ---- English is a subject to be practiced and tested
                              Developing the Reading ability should be an Objective

2.                 Dogmatic Route
n  Get rid of the Course Books and go back to using language in class for its purpose
n  Use language Communicatively
n  Perhaps we could think of getting rid of teachers as Sugata Mitra mentioned last IATEFL!!

3.                 Dialectic Route
n  Combine both  ---- use Holistic Method

     As a way out, he gave two examples of two very interesting projects as food for thought for the future:

1.                 Learning in the Wild (Nordic Countires)
           Where the people learning the native language are asked to go out to the streets to places or shops where they inter act with people and try to use the language and if they get stuck, they can call a volunteer for help!! It is a way to communicate class with real Language use!!

2.                 Hands Up Project  by Nick Bilbrough and the British Council
           Where Nick tries to help students in areas like Gaza and Syria to learn English and improve their communicative ability by communicating with them online.

     Ending up with L.G.Kelly’s quote “The Place of grammar in the learning process has never been really clear, for even when the tide has been running in a certain direction, some teachers have always tried the opposite”, he gave us food for thought for the future of English language teaching!!

      It is time for a new outlook for teaching for the future, should we only be thinking of following, any of the routes mentioned, or the dialectic one or have a braver leap of mixing ‘real language use’ with everyday teaching classes???!!

PS: For full references, refer back to Scott Thornbury’s Plenary on https://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2016/session/plenary-scott-thornbury

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Visual Literacy in Creating Classroom Materials - John Hughes

Still enjoying the sensation of IATEFL, I went on watching the sessions I missed during the conference online. It was a great pleasure to watch John Hughes’ session about Visual Literacy. He believes that teachers want ‘pictures’ to say something in the classroom. He also believes that the means of transforming pictures has developed a lot meangenerated.net

Teachers/we use images in the classroom for :
** Comprehension
** Critical Thinking
** Creativity

Thus ‘Visual Literacy’ is used to convey:
** Constructed Meaning
** Communicated Meaning
** Combined Meaning

A)                Constructed Meaning

        What does the image mean? The students use basic vocabulary to describe an image.
         Exercises such as ‘matching pictures with words’ can be used
         Pictures of actions can be used to practice Grammar rules.
         Lots of exercises can be found on this website         www.englishexercises.org/makegame/viewgame.asp?id=2431 

        The App called fotobabble.com can also be used where students can upload photos and record themselves talking about it and later on they can show it to their class.

       Hughes believes that ‘Dual Code Theory’ can be applied to using images with text as the brain works on two levels to understand: to look at the image, try to make out what it refers to and apply what the student reads to it to reach the required meaning. He believes there are many ways to combine both with the use of video.

B)                Communicated Meaning

           This deals mainly with Critical Thinking. Use the pictures to introduce ideas and urge the usage of Critical Thinking questions. Hughes suggested using a picture of a traffic jam, for example, and ask the students

n   to imagine they are either: a bike manufacturer, an environmental organizations, or a company specializing in nature holidays or a manufacturer of electric cars.
n   use the photo in an Advertisement and ask them to write a Slogan on it.
n  Make them think of the picture from different perspectives/ think about different perspectives
n  Encourage Ss to use an image on a Blog and write about it.

Such kind of activities encourage the development of HOT (High Order Thinking) Skills.

C)                Combined Meaning

           This is a mixture of the previous two steps in addition to integrating technology if possible.  He gave three examples of these:

1.                 In a book, there is a lesson about water with MCQ. Instead of just working out the article and the questions, ask the students to get out of class and take photos with their mobiles about anything related to water for about 10 minutes. Then come back to class and speak about it and their choice. This helps the Ss in developing the different meanings of things around them.

2.                 Choose photos, add them to fotobabble.com , as mentioned before and urge them to speak about them. Urge them to be creative.

3.                 He also introduced an interesting idea from a course book he wrote called “Life”. The teacher can use an App called ‘aurasma’ similar to QR Coder to scan a photo from the book and thus a short video starts playing about the topic of this photo. Or the students can go to the Grammar Reference at the back of the book, scan the grammatical item required with the App and thus a video of a teacher explaining the rule appears. This can be used by the teacher in class or the student at home. What an idea!!  

Hughes then ends his session with a sum up of these ideas as follows  

And ends up with the following References

You can watch it live on his session on   

STAY TUNED for more reviews!!



It has been a great pleasure and enjoyment to go through IATEFL Interviews. They gave me a good perspective of trainers and educationalists concepts, ideas and efforts. It was also great to hear about the different projects held in different countries to improve and enhance ELT. Here are two interesting interviews I watched during the 2nd day of the conference.

Tim Phillips -  British Council Teacher Development

He had recently joined an International Panel Discussion on CPD in School Education Systems.

1.                 What are some areas of good practice for teachers that you agreed on?
            Professional Development need be sustainable. It needs to be a ‘rhythm’ a part of the teacher’s life. The teachers need ‘follow up’ after training to see how they have been doing and if anything needs adjustment. It is also important for teachers and trainers to reflect on their work every now and then and evaluate what they have been doing.

2.                 Should PD be Pre-planned or should we look backwards?
            Teachers initially need to get qualified, need to take responsibility of CPD   (Continuous Professional Development). They need to consider its effect on Learners. It is important as well to know about new teaching trends. They also need to know about their personal needs and interests to revive their teaching.

3.                 Do you have advice for School Leaders?
            Yes, they need to take responsibility as well of PD for their teachers. They need to have positive direction not just evaluate their teachers as there are no fixed qualities.

4.                 During the Discussions, did you have any kind of disagreements or any controversial discussions?
           PD for English Teachers in particular with introducing English teaching in the Primary stage. In some countries, they believe that children shouldn’t start learning a second language until they finish the first nine years of the Primary school. There were some disagreements about when should children start learning a second language especially the ability of the child to process the language. I am with the view of concentrating resources in the secondary or high school rather than losing them by having unqualified teachers in the primary stage which would put the teachers of the secondary stage in front of the effort to put those children back on track and start all over again.

     Then we can move here to Alan Maley who spoke about Creativity SIG and how they started it about 3 years ago. He spoke about the importance of Creativity in teaching and that it is innate in the children, it is only when institutional education gets in, they get more and more screwed up.

     He mentioned that C SIG cooperated with other organizations like Literature SIG, Global SIG, TEASIG, as well as having off site events with Lit. Media Study SIG last year, we kind of stimulated interest in some overseas institutions like Tesol Greece, Malta having the whole conference on Creativity.  

     He believes that Teachers have to start being Creative before asking students to be so. It is a shift of Mind Set.

     The C SIG prepared a brochure of about 40 Presentations on Creativity to be presented at Iatefl this year and published this book with British Council “Creativity in the Classroom”. You can find it on the British Council website. It is free.

What with the future with C SIG?
     More collaborative events, more publications, more networking among membes as more people are doing very creative things and do not tell anybody about it. Sharing them is one of the key things on the website.  


STAY TUNED for more reviews!!


Diane Larsen excelled herself !!

Today Diane Larsen excelled herself with an interesting talk about 'Affordance'!!


How important is it for a teacher to grasp the idea of 'Affordance" to be able to help her/his students to 'Adapt' the learned language to its 'Environment' and learn how to enhance their use of the language!!

It's a highly rich Talk that needs to be heard more than once. 
You can find the recording here by the end of the day, hopefully!!

With these words, she ended her Talk ......

STAY TUNED for more details!!



  Hooray to Silvana Richardson!!

 What an impressive talk about employing Native vs Non-Native Speakers in EFL contexts!!

 She first stated the real worldwide situation that lots of schools and centres are biased to choose Native speakers as their own teachers without giving any importance to their qualifications. Unfortunately, this also applies to many students studying locally or abroad. Silvana tried to fight this idea through the different positions she had by simply asking those students to give those teachers time and then come and complain. What happened is that "they never come back" to do that!!

She then mentioned the frustration of NNEST (non native English speaking teachers) as lots of them spend years studying getting qualified, are far better experienced teachers and most of all know their students much better as well as their needs and culture. Yet they have to be faced by the injustice of ADs of employers and students simply because the 'customer needs this"!!
Even Native qualified teachers feel frustrated as qualifications are not then appreciated!!

She attracted the attention to the fact that this situation started to change somehow during the last few years, but we still have a long fight to go through. Thus she asked us as teachers all over the world to discuss this with our employers, talk to our colleagues, students and probably parents as well !!
She also referred teachers to this website https://teflequityadvocates.com that defends the rights of non-native teachers!!

She finally introduced herself as "a professional Argentinian educationalist by origin, who is bilingual in English and knows a little Italian"!!  Getting a great round of applause

Well done Silvana!!  Great job speaking up for other NNEST      :)  


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Taking an online tour among the different PCE of IATEFL SIGS, I stopped at ‘Learning Technologies SIG”. They started with Gordon Lewis who spoke about the importance of having “A Technology Plan” for your school.  According to him, this plan

n  Must link to institutional mission
n  Must be understood and endorsed by all stakeholders
n  Is dynamic and under permanent review
n  Is active not reactive

 How can this Plan be implemented? What happens when we start implementing such a Plan?   

Let’s then take a look at Teachers’ beliefs and how far are they really true. It seems that Gordon has been talking about his observations of a certain project that he followed:

                     Teachers’   Beliefs
                        In fact         
1.                 Control groups demonstrated high degree of improvisation and creative thinking
This doesn’t necessarily develop Creative skills
2.                  1-1 groups tend to focus on mixed media
This does not demonstrate notable deeper processing
3.                 More details
Yet there is not depth

After questioning these assumptions, he came up with the following conclusions:   

He also posed a number of ‘Uncertainties’  

He concluded “it’s not about the tech really,” [it is how we use the technology].

STAY TUNED for more details of the rest of the day   :)


Great kickoff of PCE of IATEFL!!

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 International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) is an organisation in the field of English language learning and teaching. It is based in Britain and was founded in 1967.

IATEFL works primarily to develop networks amongst related institutions and individuals involved in language education as it is relevant to the English language. This includes classroom teachers, administrators of language programmes, writers and publishers, language assessors and examination bodies, and researchers, for example in applied linguistics.
IATEFL is organised around an annual conference in the spring, with key speakers and individual papers, workshops and symposia. Membership is approximately 3500, spread through more than 100 countries. The primary activities for IATEFL members throughout the year are centred on Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which hold various types of meetings and conferences, and publish newsletters. In addition to these, there is a bimonthly magazine for the whole organisation, IATEFL Voices.
Officers are elected on a regular basis, with a professional staff serving the logistics and promotional tasks throughout the year. Membership meets yearly at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the main conference.**
Every year IATEFL offers an number of Scholarships to teachers all over the world to have the chance to join the next IATEFL Conference. You can get access to these through the IATEFL website http://www.iatefl.org/
This year IATEFL Association is celebrating the 50th anniversary for its establishment!!!
STAY TUNED for last year's memories of MANCHESTER IATEFL    :)


    It is our pleasure  to announce that our Blog  Teaching English Cafe has been chosen as a Registered Blogger for IATEFL Online Birmingham 2016        http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2016/birmingham-online-registered-bloggers