A SEASON FOR PROGRESS IN ELT: NOVELTA Winter Methodology School
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when it is -33 in Siberia, it is time for the annual Winter School conducted by NovELTA, Novosibirsk English Language Teachers Association. On February 26, 2010, scores of EL teachers from various Siberian universities and schools came to the Novosibirsk State Technological University to attend the traditional ELT event. It is a great opportunity for us professionals not only to brush up our knowledge, but also to meet colleagues, to take part in interactive workshops, and to meet EL fellows from different parts of Russia. After the Welcome words by Evgenii Tsoi, Pro-Rector of NSTU, and Elena Melekhina, NovELTA President, we listened to EL Fellow from St. Petersburg John Mark King “On NOT Teaching Culture”, and to Rostov EL Fellow John Silver on “Student to Student Listening”.
From left to right, Todd Vidamour, John Silver, Olga Salkova, John Mark King
John Mark King’s workshop on “Register, Face and Email” was extremely useful, and at times very funny. He gave us wonderful examples of student-to-student, as well as student-to-teacher, communication, both in face-to-face encounters, and by email. We practiced our skills in composing formal and informal messages. What do we write to the professor whose class we missed? Clearly, this should be very formal and polite. “Dear Professor King, I am very sorry to have missed your class, due to an unexpected family emergency. Could you please extend the deadline for me, and send the latest homework to my email address? Thank you for your patience and understanding, yours sincerely, Ivan Ivanov”.
What do we write to a friend? “I’m out Wed. Email me JMK’s HW ASAP? Thx!” And in normal English that would mean, “Dear Friend, I am not in on Wednesday. Could you please email John Mark King’s latest home-work to me as soon as possible? Thanks! Yours, Ivan”.
Elena Melekhina, NovELTA President
I can safely say that all the teachers present at Mr. King’s workshop enjoyed the presentations, and the tasks they had to perform in groups. We were also able to help Mr. King clarify some communication mysteries which he encountered in his work with students. Why do they address him as “Mr. John”, “Hey bro”, “Dude”? Is it because they are impolite? No. I would say they simply copy some popular TV shows, without any clear understanding of what the correct registers are. Actually, I made a mental note for myself to write a special unit devoted to the Correct Forms of Address.
Longman Representative in Siberia, Olga Kochenkova delivered a splendid presentation at her workshop called “Using Multimedia to Raise Effectiveness of the ELT Class”, while Macmillan Representative Marianna Malinovskaya spoke about the “Magic of Words” in modern English.
Olga Kochenkova (standing, center) with her workshop participants
Todd Vidamour, who has been an EL fellow in Novosibirsk for three winters now, conducted a workshop on “Using Online Resources for Teaching Writing”, and presented his interactive web site.
John Silver made his workshop “Teaching Listening”, which was the last one in the full-day schedule, very lively and informative. All the attendees hugely enjoyed imagining things which he suggested, and then discussing what everyone saw in their mind’s eye. This gave all of us a new perspective on the communicative approach to EL teaching. Mr. Silver also taught his listeners how to do some simple tricks in palmistry, which was a new skill for most teachers present.
Valentina Afonasova, NovELTA organizing committee, and Nadezda Makuha, EL Teacher, Physical-Mathematical School at Novosibirsk State University
As usual, the whole organizing committee led by NovELTA’s Elena Melekhina, Olga Salkova and Valentina Afonasova, worked with the participants non-stop for the whole day, ensuring their comfort and pleasure. The Winter School was a huge success, and it gave all of us a lot of material for thinking, and for developing new strategies in EL teaching.
Photos by the author