Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn't have the weight of our gender expectations. 

We should all be feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2012)

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

32nd APPI Conference, Aveiro, Portugal

32nd APPI Conference
27th – 29th April 2018
Aveiro, Portugal

Once again, at the end of April, I attended the APPI Conference as a guest of the organisers and as a speaker. APPI, the Portuguese Association for English Teachers, held their 32nd National Conference in Aveiro, a charming coastal town an hour’s drive south of Porto, with the theme “Teaching Effectively, Teaching Affectively ”.

The Conference took place at the Hotel Melia Ria, a short walk from the town centre, and  at the Centro Cultural e de Congressos de Aveiro, an old factory turned convention centre.

The organisation was impeccable and the hospitality generous. It was good to see some familiar faces and to have the pleasure of making new friends. As for the talks, there was certainly a lot on offer: a total of 105 presentations in the form of plenary sessions, workshops and seminars covering a broad range of topics aimed at teachers of pre-school and school-age learners. For the first time, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment English prepared a full day of seminars and workshops called ‘The Cambridge Experience’. The Sunday sessions had a strand focusing on the teaching of young learners in charge of APPINEP.

The key-topic of this year’s Conference was Teaching Effectively, Teaching Affectively. By choosing this topic the Conference organizers intended to revisit diverse teaching paradigms, approaches, ways of doing, and join the eclectic bandwagon as the best available choice at any teacher’s disposal.


In the opening plenary on Friday, Alyse Schoenfeldt from Palm Beach State College (Florida, USA), sponsored by the US Embassy, defined the terms AFFECTIVE / EFFECTIVE with regard to the teaching / learning process in order to empower teachers to be the best they can be. In the afternoon plenary, Joanna Budden, British Council (Spain), discussed the importance of giving teenagers guidance to become responsible digital citizens.

On Saturday morning, Simon Ward, sponsored by Cambridge University Press (UK), discussed how to use positive psychology approaches to engage children and young people and open up their willingness to put in extra effort, improving learning outcomes and enhances well-being for teachers and students alike. He brilliantly examined how the practical applications of positive psychology can be introduced to students of all ages and impact on their emotional, social and psychological well-being. 

After lunch, it was Ben Goldstein’s turn to speak about the labels we live by, which, he argues, are rarely neutral and can take on lives of their own, independent of our learners’ actual opportunities to acquire language.

The final plenary by Terry McLean, Cleverpants Productions Theatre Company (Spain) discussed the role of emotion in the learning process, how to access our own and our students’ emotional intelligence to tap into those emotions to make our classes more interactive and make the learning stick.

I also attended some excellent presentations by speakers such as Varinder Unlu on self-organised learning environments, Aleksandra Jevtovic on using poetry in the classroom, Fátima Castro and Fátima Silva on effective empathy, Agnieszka Dudzik and Agnieszka Dzieciol-Pedich on SEN (special educational needs), Fiona Mauchline on using videos and images and Alexandra Santana and Sandie Mourao on affective teaching.

My talk, Visual input-Creative output, examined the importance of rich visual input and of pushed output and how they play a role in developing students’ visual thinking strategies. I would like to thank APPI for the invitation and all the teachers who attended. It was great to see so many familiar faces!

In addition to the presentations, the publishers’ exhibition provided opportunities for those attending to catch up on the latest publications, and there was plenty of time to socialise at the opening cocktail on Friday evening and the splendid Saturday evening dinner.

My thanks and congratulations to APPI’s President, Alberto Gaspar, to the APPI Board Members and to all those who worked so hard to make the Conference such a worthwhile event.

26th Annual International HUPE Conference

26th Annual International HUPE Conference
20th – 22nd April 2018
Valamar, Porec, Croatia

Between  20th – 22nd April HUPE (Croatian Association of Teachers of English) hosted their 26th Annual International Conference at Valamar Hotels in the lovely coastal city of Porec, Croatia. 

It was my first time as an attendee and as a speaker and I was impressed by the venue, the hospitality and the organization of the event.

HUPE put together an interesting and exciting programme with speakers from Croatia, Slovenia, France, Spain, Israel and the UK. Under the slogan “Inspire and be inspired”, the conference offered a wide range of sessions with a focus on EFL in primary and secondary education.


Plenary sessions were both varied and interesting. Anna Martinovic, University of Zadar, explored how the role of teachers has changed over the years. Luciana C. de Oliveira, University of Miami, Florida, explained how to teach writing across different levels. Mike Mayor, director of Global Scale of English at Pearson, explained what the Global Scale of English project is. 

Gail Ellis, British Council Paris, gave a brilliant plenary on how to teach learners how to learn and Penny Ur closed the conference with a masterclass on research that is of interest to teachers.

There were parallel sessions on a variety of topics. Gail Ellis gave a great workshop on using storybooks to develop metacognition. Nada Dukic on Friday morning and Agnieszka Kaldonek-Crnjakovic and Zrinka Fiser on Saturday did very interesting and enlightening sessions on SEN (special educational needs) focusing on how to meet the needs of students with special educational needs, how to deal with the impact of multicultural differences and how to adapt materials for dyslexic students.

Penny Ur’s very successful workshop ‘Getting them to talk in English’ was scheduled at the same time as my talk ‘Learning for life: developing creativity and imagination in the classroom’. I was afraid nobody would attend my session. However, a large number of teachers were kind and curious enough to come and listen to me. Thank you so much! 

This gave me the opportunity to get to know Helena Miklavcic, a teacher from Slovenia, who gave a brilliant session on Sunday ‘Teaching English as a “work of heart”’.

In addition to the presentations, the publishers’ exhibition provided opportunities for teachers to catch up on the latest publications, and there was plenty of time to socialise during coffee breaks and after the sessions.

I would like to thank Sanja Bozinovic, HUPE President, the HUPE Executive Committee and the fabulous team of volunteers for a very warm welcome and a wonderful event.