Feb 27, 2017

Trendy terms, tantalizing techniques and talented teachers in Thessaloniki

A report from the 24th TESOL Macedonia-Thrace convention, which took place in Thessaloniki on 11-12 February

Earlier this month I had the pleasure to attend and the honour to present, for the first time, at the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace international convention in Thessaloniki. While the best thing about the conference - like with most ELT conferences lately - was catching up with teachers from my PLN, making new friends and connecting with professionals from all over Europe, here are highlights from some of the sessions I attended.

Plenary talks are not discussed in this post

With its unusual title, Joan Macphail and Angeliki Apostolidou's workshop Trendy Terminology in the Flipping Classroom! (shouldn't it be Flipped Classroom? I thought) really caught my eye. And it lived up to the expectation. The presenters had just come back from TESOL summit On the Future of TESOL Profession - an exclusive, by invitation-only event organised by TESOL International in Athens. Apparently, the summit had been accompanied by introduction of more obscure terminology such as doing translaguaging and METP (Multilingual English teaching professional). This set the scene for the lively discussion among the participants about whether trendy terms have a facilitating or debilitating effect on teachers. We also discussed whether such things as top-down bottom-up processes or skimming / scanningare indeed dichotomies or complementary concepts. Set up in a true workshop style it was one of those sessions where learning came from interaction with the participants who were discussing and sharing ideas.

Concluding Day 1 was an engaging workshop by enthusiastic Magdalena Wasilewska who showed us how she exploits short films to enhance communication. Considering my own interest in using video in the classroom, I easily fall for sessions on the topic and often get disappointed in the process. This wasn't the case here.
Magdalena, who has just started her blog, shared some interesting techniques, which I am definitely going to try out on my students. Some resources she introduced us to were:

www.comingsoon.net - a database of movie trailers
www.ispot.tv an ad analytics tool - you can ignore the analytics and just browse hundreds of TV commercials

And here's one of the most memorable (and powerful) videos Magdalena demo'ed in her workshop. See an accompanying lesson plan on her blog - click HERE

Day 2 highlights included Daniella De Winter's workshop on dyslexia, in which she introduced her own method called SoftRead, accompanying her fascinating presentation with short videos of dyslexic learners of all ages. 
Daniella's knowledge of the difficulties experienced by dyslexic readers was matched by her enthusiasm as a speaker.

More networking in the afternoon at this rather intimate but truly international conference and, finally, Lindsey Steinberg Shapiro's session on memory. Earlier that day Lindsey had confessed to me that her topic somehow felt out of place and might have even been seen as old-fashioned among a dazzling array of presentations with the word "creative" or "creativity" in the titles. However, her presentation, hinged on the notion that memory is essential to any learning, was very well received. After using a simple diagram to demonstrate how memory works: encoding -> storage -> retrieval, Lindsey focused on different types of encoding:

semantic encoding (through context)
visual encoding (through visualisation)
auditory encoding (through the use of sub-vocal rehearsal aka 'phonological loop')

Drawing inspiration from Nick Bilbrough's book Memory Activities, Lindsey demonstrated several short, manageable activities with few instructions and very little prep on the part of the teachersuch as sentence swapping, noticing the differences and text reconstruction. The main takeaway message from the workshop was the more you work the language in working memory, the more likely it is to stay in the long term memory, because the two are in constant conversation with each other.

Thank you TESOL Macedonia-Thrace for inviting me to present at the conference. I can't wait to go back in the future!

Memorable quotes

Testing is too important to be left to testers - Luke Prodromou
In order to think out of the box we need to fill the box first - Lindsey Steinberg-Shapiro

Other random bits

There was a woman among the French impressionists - Mary Cassat, as I learned in Dimitris Tzouris's session Google Arts & Culture in Education

For a report from my workshop L2 Writing: From Grammatical Mistakes to Lexical Opportunities, click HERE

For more reports and summaries, visit the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace blogsite - click HERE

From left to right and top to bottom: Taverna night; with Rob Howard, Danny Singh and Daniella De Winter in the hotel lobby; theatre performance by Luke Prodromou et al; Magdalena interacting with her audience; me with the conference poster; Daniella sharing her knowledge; Lindsey in action


  1. Thanks for the info about the session on using video -- a favorite topic of mine as well. On the topic of using video and film in language classes, I suppose you've already encountered MovieTalk? Very useful especially up through intermediate-ish levels. http://glesismore.com/movietalk/preview.html

    Very Narrow Listening as well: http://ijflt.org/images/ijflt/IJFLT-Oct2015/IJFLT_Oct_2015_10-29-2015_TtT_Very_Narrow_Listening.pdf (I think that VNL has benefits well into advanced levels).

    1. Hi Diane,
      Thank you for the comment and the websites. No I didn't know them. I'm reposting them as hyperlinks here for ease of access for other visitors of this blog.


      Very Narrow Listening

      which I see now is by Judith Dubois, whose session at TESOL France a few years ago I reviewed HERE

  2. Thank you, Leo, for your kind words – glad you enjoyed our workshop. Thought you might be interested in reading a post of Joan’s on the first topic of the TESOL Summit: http://www.easingintoenglish.com/489-2/
    And you might also appreciate our action shot of you in our workshop – thank you for that, too!
    See that on Joan’s blog www.lifeinthecottonfields.blogspot.com


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