My takeaways from BrELT on the Road

Just in!

Coincidence or not, propositions and concepts echoed through the plenaries and concurrent sessions I attended (apologies in advance to those I could not even attend in spirit at the same time).

Jamie Keddie encouraged us to use video to let students create their own narratives and not to limit this resource to practicing target language. Thru video, students can see there are multiple perspectives that contribute to a story and we have individual interpretations of that story. In so doing, they understand there is no right or wrong - we construct meaning based on our pre-conceived notions of reality. This awareness pivotal to critical thinking. The beauty of it all is that we benefit just as much from this method as our students.

Prodding students to see differently or see the unobvious was at the heart of Claire Venables' session "Not a box". By asking students to find new uses and meanings for a box, we are giving young learners a chance to learn language that is relevant to them and to think of reality outside the set norms and customers.

Harnessing students' ability to choose what interests them and to make sense of their world requires a safe learning environment grounded on routine, the underpinning concept of Tamiris Carvalho’s session. It is incredible how much children can surprise us when placed in a context that is no surprise to them.

Routine seems to go hand in hand with non-competitive games to foster a sense of cooperation, camaraderie and collaboration, an idea pushed by Marina Rosa, who showed the. Value of games that encourage patience, empathy and a sense of mutual responsibility. Teacher and students become partners in learning and meaning.

Understanding meaning was at the core of Cecilia Lemos' plenary. Language teachers in general need to help students negotiate and construct meaning across language - the message remains the same regardless of the color, size or design of the envelope. Rafael Monteiro dealt with the same concept of translanguaging in his presentation about Content Language Integrated Learning. The approach aligns with the shift away from language-oriented teaching and the need to develop Culture, Content, Communication and Cognition as the four crucial life skills for students. The transition from Lower order to higher order thinking skills make the learning of what we now know as Digital Literacies accessible. A challenge for teachers, as pointed out by Henrique Moura in his talk about ways we can develop these Literacies in our students and in ourselves.

The art of telling stories can be seen as a literacy in itself: Jamie Keddie argued in his afternoon workshop that we seem to why away from telling stories in the classroom for fear of being "teacher-centered" or of committing the ultimate crime in ELT: high TTT (teacher talking time). In hindsight, stories are not expository lectures or monologues; I was glad and relieved to have my beliefs about Storytelling in the learning context corroborated by Jamie's arguments that stories can be dialogic and as such can spark engaging discussion among students, who can predict, complete, adapt or co-construct the stories with the teacher and their peers. It has more to do with how you use the activity and not the activity itself. Moreover, when we really look at communication in all its manifestations - journalism, idea-sharing events, film and TV, radio, music, visual art and dance - they all tell us a chain of events with which we identify with or to which we react positively or negatively.

The event came to a provokingly reflective end Valeria França invited to fathom the future of ELT. Silly as it usually is to think we can actually see what lies ahead for us, it was worth the thought, seeing that it forced us to take stock of what is happening in ELT. Like Cecilia Lemos has said earlier, our conceptions of fluency and proficiency have changed and will continue to do so, in part because of the changes in how we learn listed by Valeria - online x face to face, classroom instruction x self-study, human instruction x robots. 

I can't help but offering my predictions of what is to come - most definitely an enhancement of what we have today with blended and flipped learning, with increased embedding of social media and instant communication tools into curricula or vice versa, with redesigned and newly assigned learning spaces, with teachers and students acting more like coaches and coaches. The future goes even further, to the point where we will become teachers of language as a means of communication: be that language English or Spanish or Portuguese, we will have to be able to apprehend meaning and transfer that meaning, in the same way we might use different wrappings for the same gift. I take the case of Rafael Monteiro's students who found information on the subject in Spanish and translated to English to complete a task. In short, it might be safer for us to talk about the future of LT and not ELT. 


Rubinho Heredia said…
That's a very interesting summary, Stephean. Thank you for that. I especially liked your take on the future and I was wondering: what kind of professi9nal development do you think teachers themselves need to remain relevant and effective? Do you think teacher development initiatives we see today reflect that shift of perspective?
Rubinho Heredia said…
Stephan, sorry for having misspelled your name...fingers faster than brain!!!

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