Last May, I was invited to speak at the 16th ELTA Serbia Conference as a representative of TESOL Macedonia Thrace and, of course, because of my bonds with Serbia (I am an editor there) I could not refuse. After all, Belgrade I love !
The report below describes what took place those 2 days.
This report was initially published in ELT TEaser’s Autumn issue (issue 67) by TESOL Macedonia Thrace. You can find it here ELTeaser AUTUM 2018 FINAL (1)
16th ELTA Serbia Conference New Trends : The teacher’s guide through ELT Galaxy
Belgrade is one of my favourite cities in Europe and I think it is absolutely amazing! Beautiful scenery and architecture, fantastic buildings and neighborhoods. It has all these elements that allow you to say it has retained a unique character throughout the years and is also extremely friendly. Not to mention that another reason I have a special bond with this city is because I have been an ELTA Serbia Publications editor for over three years now. It is, therefore, no surprise that, when asked to represent TESOL Macedonia Thrace last May at the ELTA Serbia Conference, I accepted without hesitation.
The conference started on Friday, May 11th at a new venue right in the centre of the city, at the Teachers Education Faculty. Dr Olja Milosevic, the president of ELTA Serbia, opened the conference. Αfter that, the opening plenary was a lecture by Jen McArthur, the Regional English Language Officer (RELO) in Belgrade, who talked about maps as metaphors and maps as tools. In her talk, she explained that technology has changed the way geography and map skills are taught but now maps are even more relevant in the English language classroom. ‘Geography’, she said, ‘is more than just memorizing places on a map. It’s about understanding the complexity of our world’. While traditional maps help us implement CLIL in the ELT classroom, metaphorical maps act as tools can help us know where we’ve come from.
The 2nd plenary speech, by Rob Dean this time, focused on the way language evolves, as everything else of course including technology, music, politics, etc. In his talk, Rob Dean presented some of the latest trends in English through examples of changing grammar, vocabulary and usage tried to look into ways of deciding what and how to use and teach in the classroom.
The day continued with Aleksandra Jevtovic’s workshop which involved ways of teaching English through and she presented several activities that teachers can use in the ELT classroom as well as a collection of interesting paintings that can be used with these activities. Some of these are :
- Show the Ss portraits and prepare questions that the person in the portrait could answer
- Show half of a painting and ask the Ss what could be on the other half of it
- Show the Ss pictures and give Ss post-it notes. They should then write what 2-3 persons in the paintings think and ask the person next to them to guess which person in the painting is thinking that.
My workshop was next, ‘We love project work’, during which I suggested constructive ways to organize project work and the various steps considered, samples of projects I have worked on with students as well as simple and user-friendly technology means teachers can easily use in project work. The turn out was quite good and besides the various technology breakdowns we experienced, it was a very vivid session with a lot of laughs and quite enjoyable!
The next session I attended was Mark Andrew’s one about the work done in SOL courses (building learner autonomy, the use of students’ mobile phones for language learning) and how spending a brief time in a foreign country can enhance motivation to study English.
The day closed with Nick Bilbrough’s plenary speech ‘The bifocal lens’, again with a ‘full house’. The main hall was so fully packed that a lot of people were just standing up! I have to admit that this happened during both days at the plenary speeches which shows what an enthusiastic audience Serbian teachers are! Nick presented his project with Palestinian children, the Hands Up project, to give examples of how teachers make sure that their students focus on the smaller details of language as well as looking at the ‘bigger picture’ of the language taught.
The 2nd day started with equal enthusiasm since it was Daniel Xerri’s turn to enchant his audience, although early in the morning! Daniel addressed the existing reservations about teacher-led research as it has been criticized as unreliable because of some classroom practitioners’ lack of adequate knowledge in relation to research. Xerri underlined that he personally considers research as ‘already part of our professional identity but admitted not everyone shares this idea’. He went on to explore ways teachers’ associations can support teachers with to develop the necessary research literacy. Xerri reminded us what Farrell claims : ‘You can do research not only in order to change something that you do but also in order to affirm something you already do’. From then on he asked ‘How can we get support?’ Mentoring and further training are two of the possibilities. His was a highly engaging talk and I think everyone would agree with me.
The day continued with Sofija Ljiljak Vukajlovic’s lively presentation which I attended along with other friends and colleagues and so much enjoyed! She presented ways of dealing with reading texts in a slightly unconventional or unexpected way. It was absolutely fantastic since we had to move around the classroom and not stand still as we normally do while engaging with texts.
Gamification strategies with Milijana Mitic came next and the interesting characteristic of the activities she presented was that they were easily adaptable for a variety of levels.
Then, it was time for Alan Marsh’s plenary speech. Imagine! Two plenary speakers from Malta at the same conference! His was actually a quite practical interactive talk in which he investigated ways of dealing with texts to maximize learner engagement.
After that second, for the day, plenary, we, the representatives as well as the plenary speakers were taken for the traditional walking tour around the city and then for a lovely lunch where we could enjoy Serbian delicacies and bond with the rest of the colleagues. The atmosphere was light and lovely and it did give us the opportunity to relax and enjoy the good weather outside.
Not long after we returned to the venue, the conference was about to closewith the last plenary speech by Jelena Vranjesevic on Leadership, such a modern concept!
All in all, this particular conference was a great success, in my opinion. The main hall was always packed with people, the talks and the workshops were interesting and attracted big audiences, too. At times, it was difficult to choose which to attend. It was a magnificent event with a lot of colleagues from around Europe who seemed genuinely interested in professional development and ways to improve their teaching or to be inspired. It was a true pleasure being there this year!
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