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New Perspectives in Language Education: Experiences from UES 2023 ELT Festival

Unlimited Education Services company, which includes publishing houses such as Macmillan, Blackcat, Helbling, Richmond, brought together more than ten experts in the field of education from around the world with us, education leaders, on 2-3-4 March in Antalya Trendy Lara. This deep breath, which we took away from the speed and intensity of our school life, allowed me to enter that intensity again with incredible motivation and excitement to apply what I have taken.

Combining the earthquake disaster we experienced in the last month in our country and the destruction in every sense that followed, with the chosen "women" as the main theme of this year's education, Sunay Akin enthusiastically tells us about the indestructible pillars on which the Republic was built, such as Nüzhet Gökdoğan, Adile Sultan, Selim Sabit Efendi. Mr. Akın emphasized that this country cannot be shaken if we can keep these names and their achievements alive in our memories and embroider them in our culture. After this striking opening speech, I would like to take responsibility and present the experts who touched on many different issues in the field of education and the notes I took from their speeches under sub-titles:

Herbert Puchta - Social-emotional learning with primary children: More than just a bandwagon?

Puchta started his speech by comparing a teacher to a tightrope walker trying to balance the materials in his/her hands. He emphasized that the teacher is the leader of the class and the leadership is to create an environment in which people want to live. So why would children want to live in the world within those four walls that they enter every day? What kind of classroom climate should a teacher create so that the child wants to grow in it?

  1. With the emotional bond created with genuine, sincere feelings,

  2. When the child finds an environment where he/she can freely express the views he/she has acquired from his/her environment,

  3. With stories involving real life, including his teacher.

Look back at your own student years. Which teacher or teachers are still alive in your memory? If we were to tell you a story from your student years, which teacher would you choose? If the answer is not based on any of the points Punchta listed above, let's discuss it below the article :)

Creating such a classroom climate is closely related to the language used by the teacher; for example, when a student comes to you and says, "My grandfather is about to die," instead of saying, "Unfortunately, that's how life works," it is better to say, "I understand your pain and what you're feeling. I'm really sorry to hear that. How can I make you feel better?” try to be empathetic or another example, “No one wants to be friends with me”. Instead of approaching the child with implicit and accusations such as "I wonder what you did, they don't want to be friends with you," put the words like this "This is really frustrating. It must be difficult for you. Can you tell me what you did to make friends?" Similarly, both an empathic and solution-oriented approach can provide language integrity that will strengthen the emotional bond mentioned above.

In addition to the constructive language used, recent studies show that welcoming students when they enter the school or classroom, increases success by 20 percent and reduces disruptive behavior by 9 percent (Cook, Fiat & Larson, 2018). That's why Puchta suggests we should have a morning welcome routine.

Another important issue in social-emotional development is to create of a classroom environment that supports freedom of thought and free expression. This is possible not only with a classroom where the teacher decides on the content but also by creating a learning environment where children are given choices and their opinions are taken into consideration. At this point, getting to know your students and suggesting activities for their interests and learning styles always positively affects the classroom climate; for example, you can give the option to express your assessment of the topic you are covering, not just with a given handout, but with a dance figure, a poster, an infographic, a drama sketch.

Puchta also clarified the subject of values ​​education, which is highly debated in the education community. He stated that instead of giving the values ​​as written educational content, it could be possible by modeling the values ​​that the teacher instilled in his/her life or based on a true story.

My conclusion from social-emotional learning is to make children feel that everything is possible if they want, without rasping their dreams, without limiting them with a general view, to believe that they can do it to make it possible and to work without giving up on this, to support them on the path they want to go.

Katy Kelly - Ready to Roll with Young Learners: Developing Creativity in Young Learners

Kelly came on stage with such energy that the main theme of her presentation was the “What can we do?” moment. What would we do with this energy? The more we can make children experience these moments in our lesson contents, the more place we will gain in their memory. Just as Kelly had in our memories.

Human psychology often finds many excuses if it doesn't want to do something that won't make it possible. It gets stuck on what it has and what it can't change, not what it can change. So it says "I tried, but it's beyond my will and power" and gets out of the way. We teachers, too, often complain about the intensity of the yearly plan, which is not at our initiative, the lack of time, and the extreme expectations of the administration and parents. These are all real and truly limiting challenges. What about realities that we can change, that are in our hands, and whose difficulty or ease is up to us?

Instead of clearly understanding what is expected and wanted from us, adopting an intertwined approach (the triangle of management, parents, children), choosing activities suitable for ourselves, our class, and our children, giving children a voice, and instead of imposing our own point of view and beliefs, give them an ear to express themselves however absurd it would sound and to listen to the contradictory thoughts coming from them, even if they come. How many of these can we do? More importantly, how do we do them?

  • When you stop putting yourself as a teacher at the center of everything. When you are open to collaboration in your classroom and school. When you give the other end of the rope to your teammate, manager, parent, or child.

  • When you see not only your destination but the journey itself as the realization of learning,

  • When it creates environments where children can think freely,

  • When you feel courageous and give courage,

  • When you ask the right questions at the right time,

  • When you accept possibilities, not the existence of a single truth.

go back and see what you can't change. Do you still see the same indestructible mountain or is it just a path to be crossed hand in hand with children?

David Spencer - No One Gets Left Behind: Inclusion and Diversity in the ELT Classroom

Spencer started his speech with a question, “What differences do you encounter in your students?”. Since I am a language teacher, I immediately listed the difference in language level, the difference in interests or the instantly changing moods of the students. However, when you say difference, you need to go to the bottom. Gender, character, socio-economic status, cultural and language background, learner profile, parent expectations, and interests, etc. As a teacher, is it fair to write a single lesson plan for so many differences, have them do the same activities and expect the same results, or even go further?

Audre Lorde said,

“It is not our differences that separate us, it is our inability to identify, accept and celebrate those differences”.

How many of your children's differences were you able to identify? Were you able to accept all of the differences you identified and create appropriate content? To what extent were you able to celebrate the results of these ingredients, however little you think? Shall we stop and think together?

If you would like to follow David Spencer's work and be informed about his training:

Jason Levine - Unleashing the Power of Music, lyrics, and Video to Enhance Communicative Skills and Foster a Love for Literature

As I mentioned in my previous article on the strong relationship between music and language, the brain learns language much more easily with music and rhythm. That's why I take my ukulele in my lessons, especially in small groups, and keep a rhythm with the words I aim to learn. What about learning English by rap? A great idea! I do not want to describe this part with such dry sentences, I leave you alone with Jason Levine Black Cat, who made my heart beat and made me adopt the delicious songs that I was dying to sing.

If you're a language teacher and your students don't like readers, grab some of The Black Cat's level books and open a Cathcy English channel for them by Jason Levine before reading.

Yavuz Samur - Game, Gamification and Educational Game Design

I can't really count how many times I got this training from Yavuz Samur. However, even though I memorize the content and use his games at every moment of my lessons, I will never tire of listening to Samur and being surprised by the fact that he captivates a whole audience with his play.

He says to leave all excuses aside, lack of time, curriculum, lack of materials, bad weather, management's disapproval, making noise, fatigue, this or that. Make time for the game! Believe me, this is not a time wasted, all that socio-emotional learning mentioned above, leaving no student behind, nurturing student creativity and freedom is leading to the one magical word, “GAME”.

The child heals with game.

So what games are these? In Samur's research, it is surprising that in the first five games that children want to play at school, there are no digital games, on the contrary, there are team games where they improve their social skills and focus on togetherness such as football, hide-and-seek, basketball, high ground, and volleyball. However, in the other research conducted, the preschool group sees the place of the game in the educational content in a wide scope, while the traces of the game are seen at the grade levels at the beginning of each level in primary, secondary, high school, university and later, the game does not exist in the last grade, unfortunately. However, the content acquired through the game stays in our memory for a long time and is not deleted. When we change the environment in which each lesson is taught, the brain matches and codes the content with the space. He says that we learned the following in the lessons of the parts of the plant we cultivate in the garden, or when we tell the content and include our emotions in the work, permanent learning is provided. Subjects that are frequently repeated in various ways are not forgotten. When we start a lesson with a stimulating game, then give the content we want to teach, and finally evaluate it with a game, the given content becomes permanent.

Why do we prefer monotonous lessons when we can tell the content you are going to give with pleasure and find a response with joyful laughter? When or why did we stop laughing and making fun?

Steven J. Ogden - Getting Productive! Inspiring Learners to Write

The last skill to develop in a foreign language has always been "writing". Gathering thoughts, organizing them, expressing them correctly, making non-repetitive sentences, choosing words, spell checking and checking, etc. It requires thinking of many separate stages in an integrated way. For this reason, it is a very painful process, especially for those who learn a foreign language at an early age and those who teach it at an early age. While I was thinking about how I can make children love writing, how I can stage them more easily, and how I can guide them correctly so that this process will become an easy and enjoyable process for them, I attended Steven J Ogden's workshop, which focuses on this skill.

  1. Starting

  2. Analyzing

  3. Practicing (reviewing, editing)

  4. Planning and Organizing

  5. Creating a Draft

  6. Publishing

This is the order that anyone who starts writing small and big should follow. After you've sparked the brainstorming needed to get started, of course. Maybe before we start, a word cloud that can be used in the article as a whole class can be done. Children can start by choosing words from this cloud. When it comes to the analysis part, semi-structured target grammar structures can be given and students can be expected to complete them. Until the article is published, the author should constantly review and edit the text he/she wrote. This stage is returned as needed and the process is continued until the writing appears. The child needs verbal and written feedback after each paragraph, sometimes even after each sentence. Understanding and applying the given feedback also includes skills such as patience, perseverance, and determination. As you can see, the child follows a blended process in which he/she actively uses his/her reading and writing skills. Writing education is a long and complex journey.

Knowing the genres in older age groups also keeps the learner on the road and helps them walk toward the goal. Storytelling, descriptive narrative, informative narrative, thought narrative, and diary writing are a few of them. Introducing these types of narratives in adult education before they start writing will be of great benefit to the student in the writing process.

Ogden, who helped me consolidate these little-known processes, started the workshop by giving examples from ChatGPT, which we are all under surveillance at the moment. This artificial intelligence program, which presents all the above-mentioned processes through its own filter, seems to make the lives of both the teacher and the student much easier. My take for myself was to tell ChatGPT to simplify or complicate the language, and to prepare worksheets or assessment tools based on the texts it wrote, in my differentiated activities, especially focusing on reading and writing skills. I can even say that ChatGPT has a hand in the title of this article :)

It was difficult for me to summarize two whole days filled with education, I hope it was easy for you to read.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this comprehensive and qualified program, which has been planned in a way that will not excuse the slightest disruption, where every detail has been considered, by every member of the UES family, and the education experts who offered a feast to the teachers who are hungry for learning. Hoping to see many more in the field and to build many columns reinforced by education so that this country will not collapse…


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