The IATEFL conference provides NILE with an annual opportunity to meet old friends and colleagues, to make new contacts and generally to let the (ELT) world know what we’re doing. This year there was a special serendipity about the conference location as IATEFL Manchester coincided with the launch of NILE Manchester which drew a huge crowd of well-wishers to the NILE stand. The stand looked better than ever this year, featuring an impressive array of books written and edited by NILE trainers.
IATEFL Manchester began for me, as it does every year, with the Literature, Media and Cultural Studies Special Interest Group Pre-Conference Event (aka the LMCS SIG PCE!) This year, instead of the usual four or five full presentations, the PCE was shared among no fewer than nine mini-presentations by Jeremy Harmer, Chris Lima (SIG Co-ordinator), Claudia Ferradas, Carel Burghout, Carol Read, Amos Paran, Hania Bociek, Alan Maley – and your blogger. The day’s was entitled “101 ways to teach a poem”, and though we didn’t quite live up to the title, “A couple of dozen ways to teach a poem” wouldn’t have had quite the same ring! We each had just half an hour in which to demonstrate a classroom activity / activities for using poetry in ELT, and though we all had to apologise for how little we could do in 30 minutes, the audience were all highly appreciative of a day that sent them away with a host of ideas, ranging from reassembling jumbled lines to spoken performance to ekphrasis and intertextuality!
“A couple of dozen ways to teach a poem”
The first day of the main conference continued the LMCS theme for me as it was the SIG track day, which I followed, not only out of personal and professional interest, but also because I edit the SIG Newsletter and it provided an ideal opportunity to approach presenters and commission articles for the next couple of editions. Highlight of the day for me was a talk by Jennifer Schumm Fauster from the University of Graz, reporting on a small-scale research project investigating her students’ responses to the use of young adult literature (YAL). Apart from its intrinsic interest, Jennifer’s talk was memorable as an object lesson in how to structure and pace a 30-minute presentation (which I wish I’d seen a couple of days earlier!)
My other conference highlight was a sparsely attended talk by Peter Lutzker from the Freie Hochschule Stuttgart (where he trains Steiner teachers) on “Artistic and creative practice in foreign language teaching and learning”, in which he made “a crucial distinction between short-term training and transformative practice” through the use of drama and creative writing. Peter’s thoughtful, reflective talk was quite exceptional – delivered refreshingly without notes or benefit of PowerPoint (!) – and sent me away with profoundly new perspectives on topics I thought were thoroughly familiar, a rare experience at IATEFL.
Peter’s thoughtful, reflective talk was quite exceptional – delivered refreshingly without notes or benefit of PowerPoint (!) – and sent me away with profoundly new perspectives on topics I thought were thoroughly familiar, a rare experience at IATEFL.
I always feel that at IATEFL, just as at a party, one of these years I might find the ideal conference – if only I follow the right track, meet the right people at the right moments, talk to them for the just the right amount of time, and of course have just the right amount of liquid refreshment…. And I guess the quest for this Platonic conference is one of the things that sustains my enthusiasm for the annual three-ring circus that is IATEFL.
A selection of NILE presentations are available online:
Thom Kidlde and Gavin Dudeney:
Maria Heron and Carole Robinson: